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Washington (AFP) – Democratic and Republican Senate leaders emerged from ongoing negotiations Monday expressing confidence and optimism that they will strike a deal to avert a potentially disastrous debt default.

“I’m very optimistic we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation’s bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor after meeting with the chamber’s top Republican Mitch McConnell.

Lawmakers have just three days to work out an agreement before the U.S. Treasury exhausts its borrowing authority on October 17, which could lead the United States to start defaulting on its obligations for the first time in history.

For weeks, the two sides have been deadlocked over how to fund government and how to raise the U.S. debt ceiling while reining in spending.

But there were increasing signs that a deal could be imminent, including President Barack Obama calling a 1:00 pm meeting at the White House Monday with congressional leaders including Reid, McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

In recent days, McConnell said, he and Reid have had “some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward.”

“Those discussions continue and I share his optimism that we are going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides,” McConnell added.

Any deal that passes the Democratic-led Senate would also need to be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives before it reaches President Barack Obama’s desk.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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For months, one postal worker had been doing all she could to protect herself from COVID-19. She wore a mask long before it was required at her plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. She avoided the lunch room, where she saw little social distancing, and ate in her car.

The stakes felt especially high. Her husband, a postal worker in the same facility, was at high risk because his immune system is compromised by a condition unrelated to the coronavirus. And the 20-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service knew that her job, operating a machine that sorts mail by ZIP code, would be vital to processing the flood of mail-in ballots expected this fall.

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