WASHINGTON - After weeks of intense partisanship, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders made a last-minute stab at compromise Saturday night to avoid a government default threatened for early next week.
"There are many elements to be finalized...there is still a distance to go," Majority Leader Harry Reid cautioned in dramatic late-night remarks on the Senate floor.
Still, CBS News has learned that there is a basic agreement on the fundamental outline of a deal. There is discussion of a plan to raise debt by about $2.4 trillion and spending cuts of a larger amount in two stages. There will also be vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, but the deal does not require its approval.
The plan was described to CBS News as being similar to the Boehner plan, with a modified trigger of spending cuts if the joint committee negotiating the cuts deadlocks.
Still, the disclosure that "talks are going on at the White House now," coupled with the saying progress had been made, offered the strongest indication yet that a default might be averted.
Bloomberg News reported that the new committee must act before the Thanksgiving congressional recess or government programs including Defense and Medicare would face automatic, across-the-board cuts.
Reid said earlier that at the request of White House officials, he was postponing a test vote set for shortly after midnight on his own legislation to raise the debt limit while cutting spending. The vote is now scheduled to take place Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. Given that the Asian markets open at about 5 p.m. EST Sunday, resolving the debt crisis could calm the investor community.Debt deal imminent? GOP says yes, Dems say no
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Republicans opposed Reid's bill, and said in advance they had the votes to block its advance.
Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a joint news conference with House Speaker John Boehner that he was confident a deal could be reached: "I'm confident and optimistic that we're going to get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis in the best interests of the American people."
McConnell and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer will appear on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday morning.
Without legislation in place by next Tuesday, administration officials say the Treasury will run out of funds to pay all the nation's bills. They say a subsequent default could prove catastrophic for the U.S. economy and send shockwaves around the world.
The president is seeking legislation to raise the government's $14.3 trillion debt limit by about $2.4 trillion, enough to tide the Treasury over until after the 2012 elections. Over many weeks, he has agreed to Republican demands that deficits be cut -- without a requirement for tax increases -- in exchange for additional U.S. borrowing authority.
But Obama has threatened to veto any legislation that would require a second vote in Congress for any additional borrowing authority to take effect, saying that would invite a recurrence of the current crisis in the heat of next year's election campaigns.