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In 'fiscal cliff' deal, Joe Biden upstages President Obama (+ video)

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The Senate passed a bill to avert the fiscal cliff early Tuesday morning, 89-8. Now, the bill goes to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio said in a statement after the vote that the House will "honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed."

"But decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members – and the American people – have been able to review the legislation," he added.

As recently as about 7 p.m. Saturday night, prospects for a deal looked in doubt. Talk between Senate majority and minority leaders had ceased.

Years of gridlock take a toll on Senate leaders, especially veterans like Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada and Senator McConnell, who have been battling each other on the front lines of arcane Senate procedure for years.

By Saturday night, McConnell had made his latest offer, but Senator Reid never countered back. That’s when McConnell asked Mr. Biden to step in to jump-start the negotiations.

Unlike President Obama, Biden had spent 36 years in the Senate and is a seasoned negotiator. He and McConnell worked together to break an impasse over extending the Bush-era tax cuts in December 2010. With Reid gone silent, Biden looked like McConnell’s best option for a way out.

“Yesterday, after days of inaction, I came to the floor and noted we needed to act, but that I needed a dance partner. So I reached out to the vice president in an effort to get things done,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate mid-afternoon on Monday.

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