Hope For Solution As Obama, Boehner Agree To Keep Talking

Congressional leaders stepped up discussions with each other and the White House Friday with the goal of lifting the nation's debt ceiling and ending an 11-day government shutdown.

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The government is still shut down. And the debt ceiling still needs to be raised or the country may not be able to pay all of its bills after next week. And how either of those issues is resolved remains unclear. But as NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reports, there has been some movement.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: This thing is moving on multiple tracks. There's a Senate plan. There's a House framework. House Republicans are talking to Senate Republicans. House Republican aides are talking to White House aides. Democrats and Republicans are quietly talking to each other too. And all of this leads to a sense here in the Capitol that somehow, possibly even sometime soon, this is all going to end.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: These things always end suddenly. All of a sudden, there's critical mass.

KEITH: John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, had just returned from a meeting at the White House between Senate Republicans and the president. There were no breakthroughs at that meeting.

MCCAIN: We made ourselves very clear and the president made himself very clear. But can I say that this is significant progress? No, I can't. But I can say it was a very useful exercise that we had this discussion. I wish we'd have had it weeks ago.

KEITH: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the discussions are continuing.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Now that we're back up here and back at work, hopefully we can find a way forward.

KEITH: And the goal, says North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven, is to re-open the government and lift the debt ceiling, at least temporarily.

SENATOR JOHN HOEVEN: The idea is, you know, how do we bring these ideas together in the right combination to get all of it done?

KEITH: How is the operative question. Some of the most conservative House Republicans look at ideas coming from Republicans in the Senate and say, no way. When asked about the House GOP framework, a Senate Democratic aide said it wasn't going to fly. White House Spokesman Jay Carney also threw cold water on it. But he said the president and House Speaker John Boehner spoke again this afternoon.

JAY CARNEY: And the two of them agreed that all sides need to keep talking on the issues here that are confronting us.

KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

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