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The Senate gathered to reopen the government, and boy did everyone have fun

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) clink glasses in a toast Monday on Capitol Hill after senators reached an agreement to advance a bill ending government shutdown. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The Senate gathered to reopen the government, and boy did everyone have a great time.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar gave Republican Lindsey O. Graham an awkward high-five, their fingers becoming interlocked into a vertical handshake. Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, then schmoozed about the Senate floor, smacking Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on the back and later, laughing so hard he had to grab his knees while chatting with Cory Gardner (a Republican from Colorado), Angus King (an independent from Maine) and Bill Nelson (a Democrat from Florida).

There was Brian Schatz, a liberal from Hawaii, yukking it up in the corner with John Thune, a conservative from South Dakota, while Jeff Flake, a retiring Republican, and Richard J. Durbin, the Democratic whip, nodded knowingly at one another in the center of the Senate chambers.

The Senate and the House on Jan. 22 voted to end the government shutdown. (Video: Jenny Starrs/TWP, Photo: Melina Mara/TWP)

For one brief moment, bipartisanship had come to the Capitol. Yes, the Senate agreed by a vote of 81 to 18, we should continue to have a government.

For 17 days, anyway.

The bonhomie belied what had been a very contentious weekend. Just days ago Democrats and Republicans couldn't figure out how to fund the government and managed to shut the whole thing down. Republicans had refused to consider legislation to protect thousands of undocumented citizens who came to this country as children, and Democrats refused to consider a budget without said protection.

But if you missed it, don't worry — it's altogether possible that on Feb. 9 it will all happen again.

"There's certainly a chance!" Flake said, hopping off the Senate trolley that runs through the bowels of the Capitol. "But this shutdown is so fresh in our minds I think we can find a way to avoid it."

Put another way, this whole thing has been "embarrassing," said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Put another way: "I think most Americans are wondering," Sen. John Neely Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, told reporters, "how some folks up here made it through the birth canal."

But all that's about to change! Durbin said that for the first time in years the two parties were having "constructive, bipartisan conversation and dialogue on the floor . . . about the future of this institution and what the Senate will be from this point forward."

All it took was a little timeout, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

"You will never hear me say a shutdown is good," she told a gaggle of reporters, as she proceeded to explain why the shutdown was good. "What was good was there was most definitely a forcing mechanism to get members who were trying to get to 'yes' together in one room for long periods of time, and we started good conversation."

Wait, all this was for a conversation?

"Hey, it's not nothing," said Ben Wikler, the Washington director for, an organization that wanted Democrats to use the shutdown as leverage in the immigration debate. "But technically, a raindrop in the desert is not nothing either."

For congressional drama addicts, it was a bit of a bummer. The 2013 shutdown, this was not. Hardly three hours had passed in the workweek when the drama ended — zero hours for those waking up on the West Coast. The last shutdown featured park closings, swarms of reporters crawling around Capitol Hill at all hours, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) more than happy to play the part of villain.

But on Monday, Cruz stood alone in an empty hallway and said this:

"It is a bad thing to shut the government down. . . . I have consistently opposed efforts to shut the government down."

Today, Cruz, and the vast majority of the Senate all did vote together to keep the government running. Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer took some swipes at President Trump from the Senate floor but mostly left his GOP colleagues out of it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell let his smirk and the votes do most of his talking. The government reopened, and for some reason, everyone seemed pretty happy about it.

"I hope that we won't end up in the loop of shutdown politics," said Gardner. "The thing people want is for government to just get out of the way."