Signs of hope emerge in shutdown battle

WASHINGTON - Officials say House Republicans are offering to pass legislation to avert a default and end the partial government shutdown as part of a package that includes cuts in benefit programs.

Senior aides to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined the proposal at a late-night White House meeting Thursday with senior administration officials.

In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, the proposal includes an easing of the across-the-board spending cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replacing them with curbs in benefit programs that Obama himself has backed.

Among them is a plan to raise the cost of Medicare for better-off beneficiaries.

One Republican senator says he's more optimistic now that he has been in the past two weeks. Mike Johanns of Nebraska spoke after a two-hour meeting between Senate Republicans and President Obama at the White House.

He's predicting that in the next few days, a plan put forward by House Republicans "will kind of morph into a Senate plan."

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