The temporary federal budget plan agreed to Wednesday by U.S. Senate leaders from both political parties is close to the recommendations by a group of moderate senators, according to Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
Donnelly is a member of the group that has grown to 14 senators – six Democrats, an independent and seven Republicans – who have been meeting often for a few weeks to produce a framework for raising the national debt ceiling and reopening parts of the government shut down since Oct. 1.
“Everybody basically left their political label at the door and worked nonstop,” Donnelly said Wednesday during a conference call with news reporters.
“It was negotiations where a number of people had different positions. Nobody got 100 percent of what they wanted. But the goal was to make sure our nation was protected.”
He said Senate leaders “took that framework, and I think much of what you see in the final agreement is from that.”
Donnelly said he planned to vote for the package produced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The Senate was expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday afternoon, and The Associated Press reported that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would not block a vote in his chamber.
Among other things, the measure would raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit through Feb. 7, reopen the government and extend appropriations through Jan. 15 and require income verification for people who seek medical insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
The contingent of moderates led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, had wanted to extend appropriations through March. It also sought a suspension of the 2.3 percent medical device tax that helps fund the health care law.
“I wish these deadlines were further out, but you can only get what you can get at that time,” Donnelly said. “Other people did not want to push them further out and wanted them in fact shorter. This is what was negotiated on.”
He said he and others would continue to press for a delay or repeal of the medical device tax in upcoming budget talks.
The Collins group included Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. But the Washington Post reported Monday that many members “are not the Senate’s usual impact players.”
“Five of them are in their first term in office. Three of them are in their first year in office – in a chamber where, traditionally, time turns into power at roughly the speed that dead plants turn into oil,” the Post reported.
Donnelly and Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, and Angus Maine, an independent from Maine, are the members who are in their first year. Donnelly spent six years in the House before his election to the Senate in 2012.
“The easiest thing in the world is to be the loudest person in the Senate, the loudest in the House, the person getting the most attention,” Donnelly said Wednesday, an apparent reference to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “But that doesn’t get anything done. What gets things done is the relationships you have to work together to make our nation stronger. And you had 14 people in a room who trusted one another, who knew that they could trust each other’s word, and who knew that their only goals were to try to make the nation stronger.”
Assuming the Senate and the House approve the new debt and spending extensions, Donnelly was asked whether the partisan impasse that closed parts of the government might be repeated this winter as the new deadlines approach, again risking a government default on its debt.
“I sure hope not,” he said. “From everyone I talk to, there is no appetite for a repeat of this in the Senate … and I am hopeful that the House will feel the same way.”