Yet again, President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate gathered at the White House but failed to reach agreement on how to keep the federal government running beyond an end-of-Friday deadline.
"We have narrowed the issues," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a written joint statement after the meeting. "However, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences."
It was the congressional leaders' second meeting with Obama today and fourth this week, and the leaders' statements sounded strikingly similar to comments following earlier White House meetings.
"I've been out speaking to the press before," Reid said after the meeting, "and I've said before that we've narrowed the issues -- and we have -- but the sad part about it is we keep never quite getting to the finish line."
While also claiming "additional progress," President Obama noted time was growing short to avert a government shutdown.
"I'm not yet prepared to express wild optimism, but I think we are further along today than we were yesterday," Obama said.
"What I've said to the speaker [Boehner] and what I've said to Harry Reid is because of the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning," Obama added.
"My hope," he said, "is that I will be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means but preserves our investments in things like education, innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness."
Yet again, he declined to specify specific points of disagreement in the negotiations -- believed to center not only around a dollar amount to be cut, but also which parts of the federal budget to cut and whether subjects such as abortion funding and environmental regulation will be part of an agreement.
A shutdown would have wide effects, including perhaps 800,000 federal worker furloughs, curtailment of public services such as mortgage, passport and loan processing, delayed tax refunds, interruption of military paychecks and disruption to a recovering economy.
At an earlier White House meeting today, Boehner and Reid also expressed optimism that they could find middle ground.
"There is no agreement on the number. There are no agreement on the policy issues," Boehner said. "All of us sincerely believe that we can get to an agreement but we are not there yet."
Reid said to look forward to a government shutdown if nothing is done today and the negotiators all have a "bad day tomorrow."
Meanwhile, there are signs the negotiating atmosphere may be getting stickier as the negotiations come down to the wire.
Defiant House Republicans today passed a temporary budget measure that would ensure U.S. troops are paid through September and keep the government running for another week, hours after President Obama threatened to veto it.
The bill, however, won't resolve the bitter standoff between Democrats and Republicans and, in fact, it could make things worse.