Politics

July 18, 2013

Senate's rare bipartisan work averts political meltdown

A rare huddle yields some confirmation of President Obama's nominees and preservation of the existing filibuster rules.

By PAUL KANE and ED O'KEEFE The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., right, speak to reporters after the Senate stepped back from the brink of a political meltdown, clearing the way for confirmation of one of President Barack Obama’s long-stalled nominations, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and GOP leaders talk to reporters after the Senate stepped back from the brink of a political meltdown, clearing the way for confirmation of one of President Barack Obama’s long-stalled nominations, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. At far left is Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The buildup to Tuesday's deal, however, exposed the greatly deteriorated relationship between Reid and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The two men were once hailed as senators who loved the institution first, but their relationship has been in disrepair since at least the 2011 negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling. In the past week, Reid, 73, and McConnell, 71, have dedicated hours of floor debate to excoriating each other in harsh personal terms. Even as the rest of the Senate was praising Tuesday's deal, the two leaders' aides tried to pin the other side's leader as the big loser.

MAINE'S SENATORS LAUD COMPROMISE

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Tuesday that they were satisfied with the compromise that followed Monday's gathering of senators.

Collins, a Republican, has said repeatedly that she does not believe filibusters should be used to block votes on Cabinet nominations except in extraordinary circumstances. But Collins had said last week that she believed there were "legitimate issues" with the National Labor Relations Board nominees -- lower posts than Cabinet members -- who were given recess appointments by Obama.

During Monday night's meeting, Collins expressed concerns about the "nuclear option" undermining the Senate tradition of protecting the rights of the minority party. She also urged her Democratic colleagues to "look ahead and think about the time when we would have a Republican president with Republican Senate and there could be someone appointed who was completely unacceptable to my Democratic colleagues and was nominated to run their favorite program," according to The Associated Press.

"All of us who serve in the Senate are but temporary stewards of this great institution, and I have been a part of several recent bipartisan efforts to address gridlock in the Senate without changing its fundamental rules and traditions," Collins said in a statement. "This agreement allows us to move forward in a way that continues to protect minority rights."

King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has supported past filibuster reform proposals during his six months in the Senate. On Tuesday, he said the agreement was a positive step in the right direction and credited the "open and candid dialogue" on Monday night with helping avoid a bigger confrontation over Senate rules.

-- Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald's Washington, D.C. bureau chief, contributed to this report.

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