By Ted Braun
The 16-day government shutdown that has cost our nation an estimated $1.5 billion a day came to an end on October 16. If it had not been for a bipartisan group of women senators that had played a crucial role in sponsoring discussions between warring Republicans and Democrats, we might still have been in a shutdown today. The women, however, were able to inject some important elements of sanity and rapprochement into this high testosterone situation.
Twenty years ago the women in the Senate began meeting for dinner each month to get to know each other better and to share life experiences. They soon found out that more united them personally than divided them politically, and they began to develop a collaborative perspective. This background for the 20 women presently in the Senate set the scene for a new dynamics in the shutdown.
On Oct. 8, Maine Republican Susan Collins proposed to the Senate a plan to end the crisis. “I ask my Democratic and Republican colleagues to come together. We can do it. We can legislate responsibly and in good faith.” She was joined by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, plus eight men. They developed a compromise to end the partial Federal shutdown and temporarily raise the debt ceiling.
As pointed out in the Oct. 28 Time magazine, women now chair or sit as ranking members of ten of the Senate’s 20 committees and are responsible for passing the vast majority of legislation this year, whether it be the budget, the transportation bill, the farm bill, the Water Resources Development Act, or the Violence Against Women Act. The Time article carries the heading “The Last Politicians: The 20 women in the Senate are cutting deals, passing bills and looking like the only adults left in Washington.”
Arizona Republican John McCain commented, “I am very proud that these women are stepping forward. Imagine what they could do if there were 50 of them.” And Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor said “Having women in the Senate is a good thing. We’re all just glad they allowed us to tag along so we could see how it’s done.” He also had a special word of appreciation for Susan Collins: “She deserves a lot of credit for getting us together and moving the ball down the field.”
It is this last point, however, that gives one pause. Will we have another shutdown to confront us in several months as the ball gets moved to a new location? This last shutdown, the first in 17 years, was the product of a Republican Party radicalized by a disaffected Tea Party base that hoped to get rid of Obamacare by holding the government hostage.
The bipartisan group of women in the Senate will be having a busy time ahead.
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.