Fifteen days into a shutdown, two days away from a debt ceiling deadline, and we appear to be inching towards a deal to end one and avert the other.
Any chance of resolution remained in the hands of the United States Senate and on Monday, privately, Majority Leader Harry Reid offered Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a deal that would extend the debt ceiling through next year and keep the government open through mid-December. Both expressed optimism Monday evening on the Senate floor.
"We've had a good day," said McConnell. "We've made tremendous progress," said Reid, "but we are not there yet."
The deal would also set up larger budget negotiations with the House over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester.
In case you forgot, Republicans once wanted to fund the government at sequestration levels with a bill that would also defund Obamacare, leading to the whole shutdown in the first place. But that's simply not going to happen.
But Senate Democrats are open to some wiggle room on two Obamacare-related concessions: income verification for those receiving subsidies on the exchanges, and a delay of the medical device tax. The former concession will likely make it into the deal, while the latter seems to be off the table for this round of negotiations.
It actually sounds like a good plan... as good of a plan as a game of kick the can be. Unfortunately, the House Republicans haven't been brought into this pretty picture yet. McConnell has no sway over them, nor in fact, does it appear that Speaker John Boehner does, either. However, if Boehner allows the Senate proposal to come to the floor unchanged, it will pass with mostly Democratic votes along with 25-30 Republicans. He may allow conservatives to insert amendments one last time, whereupon it will be sent back to the Senate, altered back to the way it originally was sent, and then sent back to the House one last time for the "real" vote. This can potentially all occur before hitting the deadline, assuming unanimous consent in the Senate to proceed to vote without cloture.
The plan has one big element that appeals to Democrats: it pushes the next showdown closer to the 2014 midterm elections. By doing that, Democrats are asking Republicans to consider whether banking on the support of a loud conservative minority is really the best strategy for 2014. Especially given how well that same strategy worked last year. Especially when the majority of Americans blame Republicans for the current unpopular shutdown.