Kumbaya, Distinguished Gentlemen, Kumbaya

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches the Senate's passing of the $700 billion bailout legislation.
Thursday, October 2, 2008; Page A03

As a leader of the "Pray at the Pump" movement, Rocky Twyman spent the summer visiting service stations to ask God for lower gas prices. But after he saw the House of Representatives collapse in chaos as it attempted to pass a financial bailout on Monday, Twyman headed to Capitol Hill yesterday with a new cause.

"Join us in prayer for healing our U.S. Economy NOW," his hand-lettered sign announced as he stopped passersby across the street from the Capitol. "Our Congress Needs God and Prayer Now."

Within hours, Twyman's prayers were answered. As if touched by the hand of God, Senate leaders abandoned their partisan ways and declared a new day of harmony and togetherness.

"We're going to have a significant bipartisan victory on the rescue plan here in the Senate tonight," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) exulted after lunching with his fellow Republican senators. "I think you're going to see on display tonight the Senate at its best."

Minutes later, McConnell's new friend, Majority Leader Harry Reid, came to the same microphone outside the Senate chamber with the same message. "I know this hasn't been standard procedure over the last couple of years, but there's been really hard work with the Republicans," he said.

Hallelujah! Watching the spectacle, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart became a believer. "Tonight we'll come out and sing together," he offered. "I think we're getting choir robes."

The United States Senate turning into an amen chorus? Miraculous. And it was a reassuring sign that Congress still can act in the national interest -- once it has exhausted all other possibilities.

The senators, seated at their desks the way they are for consequential votes such as Supreme Court confirmations and impeachment, passed the bailout by an overwhelming vote of 74 to 25 last night, but not before the lawmakers spent hours congratulating and commending one another and McConnell celebrated his "pride in the institution" and "one of the finest moments in the history of the Senate."

The vote is likely to shame the fractious House into following suit, and for senators that made the achievement all the sweeter. The Senate clearly had the upper hand in the sibling rivalry as it asserted its status as the upper chamber.

McConnell and Reid were practically disdainful yesterday of the lowly House, which the Republican leader urged to "move with dispatch and take it up and pass it as soon as possible."

The Democratic leader wouldn't even discuss the House process. "My job is not to get things passed in the House; my job is to get things passed in the Senate," Reid said. "That's up to House leaders. I can't control what they do."

A House leadership aide, who had ventured across the Capitol to see the Senate leaders thump their chests, was spotted by a Senate leadership aide, who teased: "Did you come to see how a bill becomes a law?"

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