Is the Senate Cooking Up a Way to Dodge Default?

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We don’t want to watch but we just can’t look away: the partial shutdown of the U.S. government has stumbled through its first week, and Uncle Sam is just nine days away from cracking his head against the debt ceiling.

Most of the conversation surrounding the impasse is negative, but there is news this week that modest progress has been made toward untangling the political Gordian knot that has locked Democrats and Republicans together in an awkward fiscal death dance. Senate Democrats — who control the upper house — have reportedly begun drafting legislation that would raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached. A vote on the measure could come as early as Friday, but Senate Republicans could use procedural roadblocks to delay movement until Tuesday.

The measure would need 60 votes to pass (the Senate is split between 52 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 46 Republicans), which means it will likely include deep spending cuts to sate Republicans, but no cuts to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), a necessary condition for Democratic support. President Barack Obama has signaled that he would be willing to accept a stopgap funding measure in order to avoid a default.