Moderates like Susan Collins of Maine, conservatives like Rob Portman of Ohio and deal-makers like John McCain of Arizona have quietly begun to reach out to top Senate Democratic leaders to see if they can help break the political logjam. There’s no indication the informal talks will lead to a resolution, particularly since the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuse to negotiate before House Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government with no policy strings attached. …

Portman, the Ohio Republican who was on the short-list to be Mitt Romney’s running-mate last year, said he’s spoken to seven different Democrats and was “trading ideas back-and-forth.” Among his ideas are to push Democrats to lower the spending cap on the continuing resolution from $986 billion to $967 billion, as well as instructions for the House and Senate tax writing committees to produce a tax reform proposal and to find $600 billion in mandatory savings outlined in President Barack Obama’s budget in order to raise the national debt ceiling by a similar amount.

In exchange for that, Portman would agree to a one-year stop-gap resolution, though he would open to the $986 billion level if the parties agree that the automatic sequestration cuts would continue.

“There’s a growing consensus that we have to do something about spending in the context of the debt limit,” Portman said.