With Speaker John A. Boehner still trying to figure out what, if anything, he can pass to reopen the government and avoid a catastrophic default on the debt, the Senate may be the place where a deal to end the current impasse must arise.
If or when that time comes, the key question turns to who in the polarized chamber might be able to craft a plausible agreement.
“You should make a list of 20 Democrats and then for the Republicans just put one big question mark,” quipped one Democratic aide.
Democrats, who are insisting on clean continuing resolution and debt ceiling bills, do not believe there are any Republicans who have enough clout to broker an agreement that could pass the Senate, even if Democrats did offer concessions.
One sign of hope came Wednesday as House Republicans began to formally shift their demands from dismantling the Affordable Care Act to reducing government spending and debt. But it remained unclear whether Democrats or the White House would be willing to even entertain that effort.
What is clear is that people are talking, and there are a few senators who are better positioned than others to take the leap.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.primary challenge
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
"I'm hopeful that this plan provides at least the concepts that could be the basis for us reopening government and moving forward and showing that we can govern," Collins said Wednesday.
"I'm hearing from many Democrats that if there were a way to deal somehow with the debt limit as well as part of this plan that that would be helpful," she continued. "I think it's difficult to imagine my caucus supporting a trillion-dollar increase in the debt limit without some sort of reforms or reduced spending attached to it."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-OhioPortman has been engaged in meetings with House and Senate Republicans
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"No progress, but there never is until we reach a breakthrough, and I'm not saying we ever will reach a breakthrough, but I'm saying that conversations are going on," McCain said, while also praising Collins for her proposal.
McCain also noted that he's already in talks with some Democrats: "I've had endless conversations. I've had six phone calls in the last 20 minutes from people who want — Democrats who are interested in resolving this."