Jonathan Cohn

Senior Editor

Senate leaders are near an agreement that would re-open the government and increase the debt ceiling. According to multiple media reports—and since confirmed by TNR sources—the funding would last through January 15, the debt ceiling through February 7.

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Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, approached Democrats with a new offer over the weekend: He and his colleagues would vote to open the government and increase its borrowing authority, as long as Democrats would agree to accept the depleted spending levels of budget sequestration. Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, said no thanks. It was the third time in less than a week Democrats had spurned a Republican overture.

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The Republican fever is starting to come down. It hasn’t broken yet.Members of the Senate GOP on Friday met with President Obama, just as House Republicans had done one day before. And like their House counterparts, they sketched out an idea for ending the current political impasse—so that the federal government reopens and, no less important, so that the Treasury Department gets new borrowing authority to pay incoming bills.

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The debate over funding government and avoiding default has officially reached the chaos stage. By my count, no less than four separate conversations are taking place right now: The White House is talking to House Republicans and, separately, it to Senate Republicans. In the Senate, moderate Republicans are talking to the Democratic leadership. In the House, Republicans from the party’s extreme wing are talking to Republicans from the not-so-extreme wing, all under the watchful eye of the caucus leaders. And that’s just the official dialogue.

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House Republican leaders on Thursday morning announced that they have a new proposal and it hews to the outlines media outlets reported overnight. Basically, House Republicans would leave the government shut down but give it about six weeks' worth of borrowing authority. Assuming I understand what the Republicans have in mind, the idea would be to use that time for some kind of broader negotiation on fiscal policy, entitlements, etc.—and, somewhere along the way, to start funding normal government operations again.

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Republican leaders and, finally, many of their followers are coming to grips with the obvious: They can't use the government shutdown or threat of default to kill Obamacare. But some conservatives aren’t quite ready to give up—whether because of heartfelt sentiment or political opportunism, or some combination of the two. That’s left GOP leaders searching for some kind of blow they can deal, ideally as they negotiate a way to restore govenrment funding and raise the debt ceiling.

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The big news this morning is a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Paul Ryan, in which he dangles a new offer to President Obama and the Democrats. According to Ryan, Republicans could agree to fund the government (thereby ending the shutdown) and increase Treasury’s borrowing limit (thereby avoiding default) as long as Obama and the Democrats agree to negotiations over fiscal policy.

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Economic doomsday is approaching. And while we don’t know the exact date, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea.

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Did the White House just open the door to some kind of short-term increase in the debt limit, perhaps to allow broader negotiations over fiscal priorities? Several media outlets are reporting as much. A senior administration official says that’s incorrect. I’m not sure who’s right or how much it actually matters. But, just in case, here’s the story.

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House Speaker John Boehner went on ABC News “This Week” to make clear his position: Republicans won’t give the government new borrowing authority until Democrats agree to negotiate about Obamacare and fiscal priorities. When host George Stephanopoulos asked Boehner directly whether Republicans would let the government default if Obama won’t talk, Boehner said: “That's the path we're on. … I don't want the United States to default on its debt.

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