Heather J. Carlson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sick of the political fighting over the shutdown, Minnesota DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and fellow female senators decided it was time to take action.
"We have strong friendships. And when this thing was getting so bad that the government shut down, people were hurling insults at each other on TV, we finally said, 'Enough is enough,'" Klobuchar said in an interview Wednesday.
Some, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have credited the women with crafting a plan to bring the 16-day government shutdown to an end. The House and Senate still need to vote on the proposal.
Klobuchar was one of six female senators to begin working on a compromise, led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Key to the ability to bring these lawmakers together was a shared sense of trust developed over months. For instance, Klobuchar said last month she had invited the women over for a potluck at her apartment.
"There is a lot of trust. It's kind of how it used to be in Washington — trust across the aisle," she said.
The women began meeting last week and were joined by six of their male colleagues. The goal was simply to come up with ideas for ending the political gridlock in the short-term while addressing the long-term budget issues. Eventually, the group took their ideas to Senate leadership and encouraged them to back some of the ideas.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a deal had been reached. The plan raises the debt limit through Feb. 7 and would reopen the government through Jan. 15. It also would provide back pay for furloughed federal employees and require income verification for individuals receiving subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The proposal also creates a plan for long-term budget talks between the House and Senate.
Klobuchar had been fighting for a two-year delay of the medical device tax to be part of the deal, but it failed to make it into the final plan.
"Because the bill was a pretty slimmed down bill, without a lot of bells and whistles, focused on getting the government open, paying our bills and then finally getting this framework for a long-term budget, it was difficult to put (the medical device tax delay) in this particular agreement," she said.
Klobuchar said she will continue to push for the provision in the long-term budget negotiations. The Minnesota senator said she sees the work done to make the shutdown deal happen as just the beginning.
"I am very happy for the American people that we averted this crisis," she said, "but I do emphasize that the long-term hard work is still there to do in the next three months."