The Senate will start debating financial reform Monday, but the legislation's prospects are uncertain as compromise continued to elude Republicans and Democrats.

Emerging from an hour-long meeting Thursday, key lawmakers admitted they could not even agree on clear guidelines for debate. As a result, Republicans could make it hard for Democrats to offer amendments, which could cause Democrats to filibuster.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm described the meeting as "a very good discussion" and promised Democrats would be able to offer a substitute bill. (The Democratic alternative would impose tougher community reinvestment requirements on banks merging with securities and insurance companies and would grant broader powers to bank subsidiaries.)

But Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle was skeptical. "I'll have to see it to believe it," he said. Sen. Daschle said a filibuster remains an option.

"I hope they won't do that," Sen. Gramm told reporters. "But my job as chairman is to pass the bill. ... We are going to fight hard."

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