Night Watch: Could A Deal Be Near?

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) summed up the mood in the 9 o'clock hour best when he told reporters outside the speaker's office, "We're just kind of waiting right now."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was more succinct as he strode into the speaker's office: "The night doesn't end for a long time."

Lawyers are reviewing language for the various proposals, Conrad said, before the negotiators will get back to their discussions.

The foot traffic in Statuary Hall between the speaker's office and Republican Leader John A. Boehner's Capitol suite has slowed considerably, and reporters have almost polished off the salted almonds and Hershey's Kisses left for us by some benevolent staffer.

One of the biggest sticking points remains limits on executive pay, Conrad acknowledged. The Senate Budget chairman would not provide further details, but Treasury has dragged its heels on the proposal, and lawmakers have argued over the details of its implementation.

With lawyers reviewing the language, Conrad wasn't ready to take anything off the table at this point.

"Nothing is decided until everything is decided," Conrad said of the negotiators' general agreement  not to dismiss any single proposal until the package was final.  The question came up in reference to a proposal giving bankruptcy judges more leeway to rewrite the terms of mortgages. "I'm not saying that anything is off the table," Conrad said.

But we just witnessed a brief uptick of activity.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) entered her office a few minutes ago and was joined shortly afterward by Reid. Press aides to both entered the suite of offices minutes later. Do we sniff an announcement?