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The likelihood of a war-time federal government shutdown—the first in American history—diminished dramatically on Friday night as all parties began reviewing, with the goal of approving, a broad array of cuts and a short-term bill to keep the government operating while the details are put into legislative language for full congressional action next week.
While leadership staff insist there is no deal yet, that caution belies significant progress in narrowing long-standing differences and the widening assumption in both parties that a shutdown will be averted and all that remains unknown is the precise procedural steps that will walk everyone back from the abyss.
Numerous GOP and Democratic sources on and off Capitol Hill tell National Journal that the outline of the deal is as follows: up to $39 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget, $514 billion in spending for the defense budget covering the remainder of this fiscal year, a GOP agreement to abandon controversial policy riders dealing with Planned Parenthood and the EPA, and an agreement to pass a “bridge” continuing resolution late Friday night to keep the government operating while the deal is written in bill form.
House appropriators' staff began meeting in Speaker John Boehner’s office about 7:45 p.m. EDT, a sure sign of preparing floor action for another stopgap spending bill, the seventh in a process that began last year when Democrats failed to pass the necessary spending bills to fund the government for this fiscal year.
The proposal under review could form the basis of an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution that averts a government shutdown of longer than a few days. The prospective measure would cut spending by about $39 billion from current levels, two aides said. It would not include a ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but part of the arrangement would likely be an unspecified and symbolic procedural step intended to give Boehner and conservatives political cover on the issue, the aides said. Democrats appear to have accepted an increased level of cuts in exchange for the GOP dropping the rider.
According to House and Senate leadership staffers, the proposal was offered this afternoon by House Republicans and has been reviewed by Senate Democratic leadership. But spokesmen for both Reid and Boehner continued to insist publicly that no final agreement has been reached.
“Republicans are still digging in on Title X. Negotiations continue.” Reid spokesman Jon Summers said on Twitter. “No deal," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said as he left the Speaker's office at around 7 p.m.
Republicans do not want any agreement framework to surface before a conference meeting scheduled for 9:45 p.m Friday. And a Senate Democratic aide that side is wary that opposition House conservatives will still scuttle a deal.
If lawmakers reach an agreement Friday night, there will not be time for both chambers to okay the measure except under unusual procedural steps that are usually reserved for passage of noncontroversial measures and are unlikely to be available for a major legislation.
But if a deal is reached, Reid and Boehner both have indicated plans to move a three-day unanimous consent agreement. Both have said they will not move such a bill without a deal. In the Senate the stopgap measure could not receive a floor vote tonight without a unanimous consent agreement that all 100 senators would have to approve. That means an objection from any senators would force at least a brief government shutdown.
Reid is scheduled to speak on the Senate floor at 10:30 p.m. to provide an update on talks and may offer the stopgap continuing resolution.
Humberto Sanchez and Major Garrett contributed contributed to this article.