"We're willing to get the government open. We want to get the government open," Scalise said. "Hopefully they get something done that addresses the spending issue."
The competing House and Senate plans are a far cry from the assault on "Obamacare" that tea party Republicans originally demanded as a condition for a short-term funding bill to keep the government fully operational. It lacks the budget cuts demanded by Republicans in exchange for increasing the government's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap.
Nor do either the House or Senate frameworks contain any of a secondary set of House GOP demands, like a one-year delay in the health law's mandate that individuals buy insurance.
Another difference between the Democrats and Republicans involves a Democratic move to repeal a $63 fee that companies must pay for each person they cover under the big health care overhaul beginning in 2014. Unions oppose the fee and Senate Democrats are pressing to repeal it, but House Republicans are positioning to block them and Senate Republicans are adamantly opposed as well.
Democrats were standing against a GOP-backed proposal to suspend a medical device tax that was enacted as part of the health care law, but might not be able to win a floor vote since many Democrats oppose the tax too.
Democratic and Republican aides described the outlines of the potential agreement on condition of anonymity because the discussions were ongoing.
But with GOP poll numbers plummeting and the country growing weary of a shutdown entering its third week, Senate Republicans in particular were eager to end the shutdown — and avoid an even greater crisis if the government were to default later this month.
Any legislation backed by both Reid and McConnell can be expected to sail through the Senate, though any individual senators could delay it.