There was reason for Wall Street to be pessimistic. For one, it wasn't clear whether House Republicans will go along with whatever the Senate works out. Also, any deal reached this week might simply set up another showdown a few months down the road.
Half an hour after trading began, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 40 points, or 0.3 percent, at 15,261. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down four points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,706. The Nasdaq composite was flat at 3,815.
All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 fell, with the biggest declines in consumer discretionary and financial stocks.
Citigroup fell after it reported a smaller profit because of a drop in its bond business, investment banking and mortgage refinances. The stock was down 39 cents at $49.19.
Johnson & Johnson rose $1.13, or 1 percent, to $90.93 after reporting a bigger third-quarter profit and raising its earnings forecast for the year.
The yield on the 10-year T-note rose slightly to almost 2.70 percent. Bond trading was closed Monday for Columbus Day.
Stocks in Europe rose. German's DAX rose 0.8 percent and and Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent.
The price of crude oil fell 69 cents to $101.72.