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Senate Republicans were optimistic Wednesday that a deal on regulatory reform was forthcoming.

“I’m optimistic we’re going to get a bill,” Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters. “It’s going to be a good bill, and we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”

Shelby has been negotiating with Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for months, but only in the last few days has it seemed a bipartisan deal was imminent. While Shelby would not offer a timeline for an announcement, he did say, “I think we can get a bill soon.”

Republicans also said a Wednesday morning markup in the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, during which the panel approved legislation to regulate the derivatives market, was a promising development. The measure was approved 13-8, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joining Democrats in approving the bill.

“We’re really just going to start now, as I look at it,” Agriculture ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said of negotiations on that portion of financial regulatory reform.

Republicans have largely stood together in the debate over how to overhaul the financial regulatory system, deferring to Shelby and declining so far to back a measure being pushed by Democrats. But their rhetoric has softened in recent days, and Chambliss said that Grassley’s vote in the Agriculture Committee markup proved that Republicans want to reach a bipartisan agreement.

Talks between Dodd and Shelby were expected to continue the rest of the week, with constant communication among Banking staff members. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he hopes to bring the measure up by early next week.

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