The nation’s capital looked in need of an elusive grand bargain Sunday as lawmakers prepared to return from recess with a host of budget challenges on their plate.

If left unresolved, those challenges could lead to a fiscal calamity, officials say. But the political hurdles have only mounted in recent weeks, raising the possibility of a stalemate if lawmakers can’t come together on a deal. In a sign of how tenuous the times are, both parties — after introducing their own budget plans — continue to watch anxiously as a bipartisan group of six senators works toward a tentative budget proposal which may or may not get finished and may or may not attract more support.

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