Why the Senate Is Taking the Lead in Shutdown Talks

As the government shutdown heads into its second week, the Senate Democratic leadership is poised to take over talks. 

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President Barack Obama met Saturday with Senate Democratic leaders at the Oval Office. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

As the federal government shutdown heads into its second week, Senate leaders are poised to take over talks in an effort to reopen offices and avert a potential debt default.

President Barack Obama met Saturday at the Oval Office with Democratic Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Dick Durban of Illinois, to devise a strategy to bring an end to the shutdown, which Sunday entered its 13th day, the Associated Press reports. On a bipartisan level, Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) also struck up talks, paving the way for a potential deal, officials say.

That raised the level of optimism among some senators that a deal could be reached even as Reid has said there was a "long ways to go" and few details on the leaders' talks have emerged. 

"It's a breakthrough. Hard to imagine, but it's a breakthrough," said Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2. Senate Democratic leader, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Fractious members of the Republican Party, however, still remain an obstacle. Talks moved to the Senate Saturday after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that negotiations with the president had ground to a halt.

Ending the stalemate takes on increased urgency this week with the approach of Thursday’s deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Further, the shutdown has idled 350,000 government workers, "left hundreds of thousands of others working without pay and curtailed everything from veterans' services to environmental inspections," the AP reports. And congressional job approval poll numbers continue to flag.

Senate Republicans dealt Democrats an expected setback on Saturday by derailing a Democratic measure extending the debt limit through 2014 without any conditions. The vote was 53-45 to start debating the Democratic measure - seven short of the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP obstruction tactics.

Still, despite Republican brinksmanship, optimism abounds that Senate leaders can help pave the way to bring an end to the shutdown.

Read more at the Associated Press.

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