A Senate Democrat says he believes "odds are better than people think" that a deal can be reached to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts next week.
New York's Chuck Schumer tells NBC's "Today" show he's encouraged that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is getting "actively engaged" in talks to resolve the problem.
Appearing on the same show Friday, Republican Sen. John Thune noted a meeting later Friday among President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, saying, "It's encouraging that people are talking."
The South Dakota senator said, "I think in the end we will get a deal, but the question is the timing of that."
He also said the two sides are at stalemate because, quote, "Democrats haven't been willing to discuss the issue of spending."
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