Senate leaders push toward fiscal deal with House in discord

U.S. Senate leaders are rushing to lock up an agreement to end the fiscal impasse, stepping in after House Republicans’ last-minute plan to avert a U.S. government default collapsed.

The emerging Senate accord may be announced as early as this morning, though passage in the Republican-led House is far from assured and one ratings company yesterday placed the U.S.’s AAA credit rating on a negative watch. House leaders have made no decision about whether to vote on the Senate bill, according to a House Republican aide speaking on condition of anonymity.

The framework being negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell presents the clearest path to ending the 16-day-old government shutdown and extending U.S. borrowing authority, which lapses tomorrow. It would fund the government through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspend the debt limit until Feb. 7.

“Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach,” Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman, said in a statement last night. Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, today said the leaders are “still working” on a deal.

In the Senate, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who has led a campaign against President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, has left open the possibility of delaying the debt-ceiling measure. If any of the 100 senators chooses to delay it, a vote could be pushed to as late as next week, raising the prospect of a missed payment on the debt.

Boehner Decision

In the House, Representative John Boehner of Ohio is facing one of the most important decisions of his tenure as speaker: whether to allow a Senate agreement to come to the House floor unimpeded, or try to amend it. House Democrats say they could pass a Senate deal with a handful of Republicans, if Boehner would allow a vote.

Rob Nabors, deputy White House chief of staff, was at the Capitol last night for meetings, according to an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss private talks.

A Senate accord on government funding and the debt ceiling will probably be presented for a House vote by Boehner and likely win passage with a majority of Democrats and minority of Republicans, Representative Charles Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, said last night in an interview on CNN.

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