The saga of the “Collins Plan” will live on as one of the most revealingly pointless distractions of the shutdown fight. So: On Friday afternon, Maine Sen. Susan Collins presented the president with a 23-page plan. The basics: a six-month government funding package at sequestration levels, a one-year debt limit increase, a two-year delay of the medical device tax. Because of Collins’ rep, this was treated by some outlets as a possible breakthrough. After all, Democrats in the Senate really want a short-term CR and a one-year debt limit increase, a way to start budget negotiations again without preconditions.
Saturday morning, at yet another meeting, House Republicans were told that the president was trying to break their will by getting the Senate to cut a deal first. “They are trying to jam us with the Senate,” said Paul Ryan, who does not always speak after these meetings, “and we are not going to roll over and take that.”
A few hours later, Democrats in the Senate, led by Harry Reid, tore into the Collins plan. This was somewhat unexpected—by Collins, anyway. The senator had scheduled a 12:15 press conference to discuss her breakthrough. That was bumped to 12:45, then to 1. Shortly before the appointed time, as reporters waited for her to arrive, an aide rushed to the Senate studio to say that she would only speak after the Democratic leadership held its own press conference, because ideally she’d have a few Democrats joining her.
Nope. Democrats left their conference committed to opposing the Collins plan, which was never going to get a vote anyway.
“We are not overplaying our hand,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer after the leaders’ press conference. “We are open to discussion in every way. We think our Republican colleagues are moving in our direction. The fact that Obamacare is not a major part of the discussion among all Senate and many House Republicans all shows it’s moving in a decent direction. If you get a broad, bipartisan vote in the Senate, it might induce the House to work on something.”
Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein could not resist a dollop of snark. “Like on immigration reform?” he asked.