HELENA, Mont. -

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus says he thinks Congress is inching closer to a solution to end the government shutdown and avoid a federal financial default.

The Montana Democrat said Thursday he believes members of Congress are starting to listen to constituents and understand the standoff must end.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman heard earlier in the day from the treasury secretary that failure to raise the debt limit would be "catastrophic" to financial markets and business.

Republicans opened the door to a short-term extension, but also said they want to talk about cuts to the government's big benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Baucus said that topic can only be discussed as part of an orderly, longer-term conversation that also includes of raising revenue through closing tax loopholes.