WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid says "I don't know timewise how it can happen now."
But President Barack Obama and top members of Congress are meeting anyway, to try to avert the fiscal cliff of tax increases and budget cuts set to go into effect on Tuesday.
Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House this afternoon, and House members are holding an unusual session Sunday.
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."
Meanwhile, stocks are falling again on Wall Street as Washington leaders blame each other for an impasse over the budget that seems less and less likely to be resolved before a year-end deadline.
That's when a series of across-the-board government spending cuts and tax increases kick in, an event that has become known as the "fiscal cliff."
The market is on track for its fifth consecutive decline as the political gridlock continues and investors fret about the fallout it will have on the fragile economic recovery in the U.S.