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Congress ‘very, very close’ to debt-ceiling deal, Mitch McConnell says

The Senate’s top-ranking Republican said Sunday that lawmakers are “very, very close” to an agreement to raise the nation’s debt limit, as Congress works to meet an imminent deadline to stave off an unprecedented federal default.

In separate interviews, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that progress had been made late Saturday in conversations between the White House and congressional leaders on a debt-ceiling plan that could meet with enough support from both parties to move to President Obama’s desk by Aug. 2.

McConnell, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” described a $3-trillion package that included cuts in discretionary spending, caps on future spending and a vote on a balanced budget amendment. A special joint committee would be formed to consider further cuts and entitlement reforms that could be put to a vote in Congress this fall.

The debt ceiling would be raised until after the 2012 presidential election -- a key priority for Obama.

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“This deal has not been finalized but I think we’re very, very close to something I could comfortably recommend to my members, and I believe the Democratic leadership will be doing the same,” McConnell said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, also professed optimism.

“I have a much more positive feeling than I did 24 hours ago,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

“There is active negotiation underway,” he continued. “I think some of the things that are coming forth hold promise. Key elements are still being resolved. ... We want to move this forward.”

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Asked if the two sides have reached a deal, a top White House advisor said no.

David Plouffe, a senior advisor to Obama, said Sunday morning that Republican and Democratic negotiators “still have some work to do.”

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Plouffe said that a credible enforcement mechanism -- a “trigger” -- is needed to compel the newly formed congressional committee to act.

On the show, interviewers pressed Plouffe repeatedly on whether spending would be cut across the board if the committee failed to act. While Republicans would welcome a trigger along those lines, many Democrats want one that would also include revenue increases. In the past, Obama has said he wants a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and revenue increases.

Plouffe did not give a firm answer. “We’re talking about a variety of options here,” he said.

If negotiators have not reached agreement by the Tuesday deadline, Plouffe said, the White House would be open to raising the debt ceiling by a day or two to work out final details.

The Senate was set to vote Sunday afternoon on the emerging plan -- a vote that may be pushed back as details are still being worked out.

A House GOP leadership aide said that “discussions are moving in the right direction, but serious issues remain.”

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“No agreement will be final until members have a chance to weigh in,” the aide said.

Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


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