Democrats and Republicans have only a few days to agree on how much to cut spending in their budget for the last six months of the fiscal year. If nothing passes by April 8, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will stay home, and thousands of tourists who trekked to Washington's many museums will be turned away. Even worse, hundreds of congressional staffers' BlackBerrys will be shut off. But is this nightmare scenario really happening? Signs point to, er, maybe not?
Signs a deal will be struck:
- Sen. Dick Durbin says "I feel better today than I did yesterday... [that lawmakers are] moving toward closure." A new deal is on the table.
- Rep. Bill Huizenga, one of those famous freshmen Republicans, said though a shutdown is "definitely possible," he's "willing to look at voting for" the latest proposal because voters back home will think he's trying to cut spending.
- House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama had a second conversation about the budget. The catch? It lasted just three minutes, The Hill's Russell Berman reports. Still, Boehner told Obama he's "hopeful" they can come to an agreement.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer says he sees there's a "glimmer of hope" that Congress will be able to avoid a government shutdown. Appropriators worked "late into the night" after a Tuesday meeting between Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, The Hill's Erik Wasson reports.
- Rep. Michele Bachmann, who warned Tea Party protesters that a shutdown would be blamed on them last week, said on MSNBC that "I firmly believe that by Friday this deal will be made and that there won't be a shutdown... I actually do think we will reach an agreement and move on."
- House Republicans say they'll consider waiving a rule that requires legislation to be posted online for three days before it comes to a floor vote. That would give lawmakers more time to come up with a deal before the deadline. Republicans adopted the rule when their new majority was sworn in in January.
- And, most importantly, Boehner cried when detailing budget talks with House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Wednesday. As he thanked his colleagues for sticking with him under such high pressure, "He cried," an attendee told ABC's Jonathan Karl, "but only briefly."
Update: On the other hand, maybe things aren't going so well: Obama is calling Boehner and Reid back to the White House for a meeting at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday. "There wouldn’t be a meeting tonight if it wasn’t necessary to try to move this forward," a "Democrat familiar with the talks" told National Journal's Marc Ambinder.