Washington Extra - McConnell's quiet conversation

WASHINGTON, July 15 Fri Jul 15, 2011 4:48pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - Amid the sound and fury of the debt-ceiling debate, the most influential person may be the one who didn't say a word in public on Friday.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell stayed away from microphones and bright lights on Friday as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner accused each other in dueling news conferences of not having a "serious" plan to avert an imminent default.

The Senate was officially out of session, but Democratic and Republican staffers continued work on McConnell's plan that may yet steer the ship of state away from the iceberg of fiscal disaster.

That plan, described as a "backup" by McConnell when he introduced it on Tuesday, is increasingly seen as the only possible way to agreement in a rancorous partisan environment.

Obama and Boehner haven't exactly embraced the plan, but they're not dismissing it either. Obama said it would "at least avert Armageddon" -- which at this stage in the debate might count as a victory.

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