WASHINGTON — The male Senate leaders may have tied the bow on a deal aimed at ending the government shutdown, but credit for shaping the package is being given to a group of women, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Collins, a moderate Republican in her third term, was the leader of a bipartisan group of 14 senators — six of them women — who developed a compromise to end the 16-day partial federal shutdown and temporarily raise the debt ceiling so the nation isn't on the brink of default.
While the group's proposal was not left intact, Collins and other senators who participated say elements have been incorporated and helped provide the framework for the final deal hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"It's a good outcome," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., part of the 14-member group. "Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily by women in the Senate."
Collins said Wednesday it was a "truly collaborative effort," adding that all in the group deserved "kudos" for working on the deal. McCain joked that he had won "a small side wager" from Collins in the course of their negotiations.
She said she began the effort Oct. 5, on a rare Saturday session for the Senate, after listening to speeches in the chamber during the first weekend of the government shutdown that were sharp and partisan from both Republicans and Democrats. Collins delivered a speech of her own that day, urging her colleagues to work together on a solution.
Two of her sister senators — Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — were the first to call Collins and join the effort. "I know my colleagues are tired of hearing about the women in the Senate," Collins said Wednesday, with a smile, as she thanked Murkowski and Ayotte.
Collins, Murkowski and Ayotte even appeared together Wednesday morning on NBC's Today show, calling for an end to partisan bickering and politics.
"This should not be about someone's speakership," Murkowski said, referencing the challenges House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has faced from his GOP members. "This should not be about the next election. This should be about the future of our country, where we are right now. We are shutdown as a government. We are facing a debt crisis."
In the end, the group of 14 senators was comprised of seven Republicans, six Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., another member of the group, said on CBS earlier this week that it shouldn't be a surprise that women played such a key role.
The 113th Congress began in January with a record 20 women — 16 Democrats and four Republicans — in the chamber. They all sat down for an interview with ABC News, and stressed that they could get things accomplished, partly because of their gender.
"What I find is with all due deference to our male colleagues, that women's styles tend to be more collaborative," Collins said in that ABC News interview.
Since her election to the Senate in 1996, Collins has been quick to cross the aisle and work on compromises. In 2010, she was the lead Republican on legislation that ended the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays and lesbians in the military. Collins was also one of three Republicans in 2009 to vote for President Obama's economic stimulus package.
The Senate deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling will also be a compromise that will have Collins' name attached.
"She deserves a lot of credit for getting us together and moving the ball down the field," said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
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