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Senate moderates trudge on

Led by Senator Collins, a bipartisan group keeps talking.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Led by Senator Collins, a bipartisan group keeps talking.

Senate moderates are still working.

Speaker John Boehner’s attempt to get a bill through his conference fell apart Tuesday night, but Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and thirteen other senators from both parties kept trying to hash out a deal.

“I continue to think that the bipartisan plan that the group I've been working with offers the best path forward,” Collins said Tuesday before the meeting in her office.

“I would encourage people -- my colleagues on both sides of the aisle of the Senate and the House--to take a look at the proposal that we've been working on. I also think that the Senate needs to act first, that there's more chance of an agreement being reached in the Senate, and we need to lead.”

The Senate had spearheaded dealmaking late last week, coming to a tentative agreement on Monday night between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. But those talks stalled when Boehner tried to push forward with his own plan.

It’s unclear which chamber will make the next move. But there's renewed hope for movement on the Senate side after 24 hours of failed action in the House.

“I'm going to continue to have discussions with a group that I was part of before, and anyone who wants to get resolved,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who attended Tuesday night's meeting. “It's important that we continue those discussions if the leadership does not come together on something, then we can come together on something and get this resolved.”

The other senators attending the meeting were Republicans Sens. Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Mike Johanns, and John McCain; Democrats Mark Pryor, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Manchin, and Jeanne Shaheen; and Independent Angus King, according to Kasie Hunt of NBC News.

McConnell himself suggested that the lines had reopened after the House bill fell apart on Tuesday night.  Asked whether he was going to meet with Reid, McConnell said: "I'm as near as the telephone."

"They are optimistic an agreement can be reached," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart in a statement.