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Talks continue as lawmakers cautiously seek deal to end shutdown

Republican and Democratic leaders say they are keeping the lines of communication open as both sides gingerly attempt to craft a deal to end the ongoing government shutdown and keep the nation from defaulting on its debts by next week's debt ceiling deadline. 

An aide for House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that President Barack Obama and Boehner spoke by phone Friday as negotiations continued at the staff level. "They agreed that we should all keep talking," the aide said. 

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the two leaders had a "good conversation" and that House Republicans are showing "a recognition that we need to remove default as a weapon in budget negotiations."

Republican senators huddled with Obama for 90 minutes at the White House on Friday as administration staff worked with House GOP staff to hammer out the contours of an agreement that would set the stage for broader budgetary talks. 

After that meeting, Boehner also talked behind closed doors with some of his Republican Senate colleagues. 

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The impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years was felt across America as offices were shuttered and workers were sent home after lawmakers failed to come to a deal.

Republicans are said to be offering a six-week extension of government borrowing, and perhaps a reinstatement of government funding. The GOP had floated only an extension of the debt limit on Thursday, but the president has demanded both provisions as a precondition for negotiations. 

Carney said Friday that Obama has "a number of concerns" with the short-term extension of the debt limit, saying that a brief delay in the deadline would leave the country with the same "dynamic" of fiscal conflict in another six weeks. But, he added, there are areas where the White House believes agreement can be reached.  

Moreover, Democrats are wary of such a short extension in the debt limit, and Republicans in the Senate may offer their own alternative plan. 

House Republicans will huddle on Saturday morning to gauge support for the emerging plan, though the details of the proposal remain sketchy.

The politics of resolving the shutdown and averting a default on the national debt remain delicate, though. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the leader of an effort linking the shutdown to an effort to defund or delay Obamacare, delivered an uncomprimising defense of his strategy mere hours before the Republican meeting with Obama. 

Cruz continues to hold considerable sway among conservatives in Congress, who have broken with Republican leaders on a variety of issues in the past. A campaign by the Texas senator against any emerging compromise threatens to upend the politics of the issue and the chances of advancing a deal by the Oct. 17 deadline by which Congress must authorize the government to borrow more money to finance its existing obligations. 

According to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, the shutdown has been a political disaster. One in three say the shutdown has directly impacted their lives, and 65 percent say the shutdown is doing quite a bit of harm to the economy. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

As the talks play out, an anti-Republican political tide has begun to weigh on GOP lawmakers and fueled their interest in striking a deal. 

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday found that unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party had reached all-time highs, and that 70 percent of Americans disapproved of the way in which Republicans in Congress were handling the budget standoff.

"There's no question it (the poll) catches the attention of politicians on both sides and hopefully focusses them towards a solution," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said of the impact of the sharply anti-GOP sentiment reflected in the poll.

"Well we read the newspapers, and listen to the press, especially TV," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the all-important House Appropriations Committee.

The uncertainty has also made for a roller-coaster ride on Wall Street, as markets ebb and flow as hopes of avoiding a default on the national debt rise and fall.

 

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