Washington (CNN) -- The Republican congressman and Democratic senator charged with hashing out a federal budget deal are "closer" to an agreement but not there yet, according to senior aides in both parties.
A senior Democratic aide told CNN that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray met Wednesday afternoon and are narrowing down the issues in a potential spending deal.
The two lawmakers are the primary negotiators for, and leaders of, a budget conference committee that has a week and a half to come up with an agreement on spending levels.
The talks are especially important because the bill funding government now runs out in mid-January at nearly the same time as another round of forced budget cuts is due to hit.
If Murray and Ryan can agree on spending levels and whether to roll back some of the budget cuts, that would settle the most contentious issues in the January spending debate and essentially pave a shutdown-free road to the next funding bill.
The two sides have a nearly $100 billion gap to bridge.
Entering the talks, Republicans had pushed for an annual spending level of $967 billion, while Democrats set their level at $1.058 billion.
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