Despite the behind-the-scenes activity, some of McConnell’s closest allies predicted that there was too little time to seal a interim deal and said each side was trying to pin the blame on the other.
“It’s all theatrics now,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., McConnell’s incoming chief deputy, told reporters.
Jittery financial markets were whipsawed by rumors all day, with the Dow Jones industrial average plummeting nearly 100 points in the 30 minutes after Reid convened the Senate at 10 a.m. with a dour assessment of the talks.
When reports emerged that Boehner was calling the House back into session Sunday evening, the index rose more than 100 points, even though the speaker’s decision represented no sure cause for hope. The index closed down a modest 18 points, the fifth session in the last six days it has fallen.
Thursday was the kind of day that generations of lawmakers had sought to avoid. Since the 1930s — when an amendment to the Constitution decreed that congressional sessions would end just after New Year’s Day — it has been a bipartisan goal to leave before Christmas and not come back.
There have been only four previous post-Christmas work sessions. Two were caused by World War II, another was related to the government shutdown of 1995, and another was triggered by a budget fight in 1963.