A postponed high-stakes meeting at the White House. A rescheduled closed-door gathering of Republican senators. Leaders of the bitterly divided Congress ducking into each others' offices. President Barack Obama, behind a table of bologna sandwiches, pressing lawmakers to forge an 11th-hour deal to spare the fragile economy from a potentially catastrophic debt default.
And from the chaos, growing optimism about a possible deal — even though it may just set the weary country up for another confrontation in only a few short months.
With the partial government shutdown entering its third week and the United States due to slam into the congressionally set debt ceiling in just days, top lawmakers and Obama sounded uncharacteristically hopeful Monday about an agreement to get back to business and avert a default.
Two Democratic Senate aides cautiously described the emerging deal as including a debt-ceiling hike that would last until Feb. 7 or 15, 2014, providing enough money to keep the government open until mid-January, and securing a commitment from all sides to launch comprehensive negotiations on the nation's finances.