WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- House and Senate leaders said they intended to reach agreement on a stopgap spending bill to prevent a U.S. government shutdown before the November elections.
"I am hopeful and confident we can reach a conclusion in the near future," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.
He said talks were being held "at a high level" and were "very productive."
The talks -- for a stopgap "continuing resolution," which is legislation that takes the form of a joint resolution to provide funding for existing federal programs at current or reduced levels -- have heated up because lawmakers are only scheduled to be in session for less than three weeks between now and the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, when current funding runs out, The Hill reported.
The central issue has been the length of a stopgap, The Hill said.
Republican and Democratic leaders said both sides were leaning toward a six-month resolution, which would keep the government running through March 2013. The other option is a three-month bill that would end Dec. 31.
Lawmakers will be dealing with other issues during the November-December lame duck session. Those issues include dealing with the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and staving off automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending.
"We're considering lots of options when it comes to the [continuing resolution]. We don't really have anything to announce at this point," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a separate news conference. "We're going to come to an agreement, I would hope, with our colleagues in the Senate to try to make sure that the government is funded and that there's no opportunity for games to be played. And when we have something to announce, we'll be happy to do it."
Conservative lawmakers and aides have suggested that getting a six-month deal was so important, they would be willing to accept higher spending levels in the continuing resolution than they voted for in the past, The Hill said.
Leaders say they are discussing a measure based roughly on the current spending level of $1.043 trillion -- $15 billion higher than the cap in the House Republican budget resolution sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.