When the House could not agree to vote on a measure to raise the debt ceiling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) redoubled their efforts to reach an agreement. Their success owes much to some relatively new members.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, opened a chink in the partisan wall dividing the Senate. She wrote a simple plan on Oct. 5 to reopen the government and presented it on the Senate floor, while her colleagues were still throwing rhetorical bombs at each other.
The chink grew wide enough for a coalition of 14 to slip through. Of those, six are Democrats, one an independent, and seven are Republicans. Many of them are junior members of the Senate. Collins said those who negotiated the bill to avert default were united by their determination to prove that they could compromise, and that they could govern.
Her partner in the effort was Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.) He said the cooperation between them reminded him of stories he had heard of how well the Senate used to work together.
The most important part of the compromise is that it directs budget conferees to develop a plan to deal with the national debt over the long term, Collins told MSNBC Wednesday.
The agreement raises the debt limit until February 2014, funds the government through Jan. 15, averts default through Feb. 7, and establishes a joint House–Senate committee to make spending cut decisions. States will be reimbursed if they paid for federal services, such as parks, during the shutdown.
Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday that legislators can use the time to “work toward a long-term budget agreement that prevents these frequent crises. And perhaps most importantly, this legislation ends a standoff that ground the work of Washington to a halt this fall.”
The lone independent of the logjam-breaking lawmakers quoted Winston Churchill. Angus King (I-Maine) said, “Americans will always do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.”
King and several of his colleagues expressed the hope that their group has turned a corner. “Congress was really looking into the abyss,” he said. But now that it has overcome its deadlock, “I hope this moment is the beginning of a new era of civility.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R. Ala.) said the agreement should give Americans hope.
It gave the stock market hope. It soared on the news of a deal.