WASHINGTON — Before the debate, there was the drama.
Would Senator Scott Brown make it from the Senate in Washington to the WBZ studios in Boston in time for his 7 p.m. showdown with Elizabeth Warren? For a time, it was not clear, and the Massachusetts political world was captivated by the possibility that partisan sniping over Senate procedure would interfere with the senator’s flight to Boston, dooming the first face-off in the country’s most contested Senate race.
The uncertainty all began when Brown, just after 2 p.m., told a Globe reporter in a Senate hallway that he would skip the debate if Democrats scheduled votes deep into the afternoon or evening. Suddenly, the debate looked as if it might collapse before either candidate made it into the makeup room.
“Bottom line is, the people have sent me down here to do my job, and that’s to vote,” Brown said. Voting is “the one thing that I can’t delegate to the staff.”
Brown said he has missed only one vote since arriving in the Senate in 2010, which he blamed on a delayed flight. The senator, who takes deep pride in his Washington attendance record, did not sound as though he were in a hurry to make it back to Boston.
“If I can catch a 4:30 plane, I’ll hustle there,” Brown said. “I’m sure if we don’t make [the debate] tonight, we’ll reschedule it for Monday or something.”
There was a real chance Brown might have had to cast a significant vote Thursday night.
The key item on the Senate’s agenda this week is a measure that would keep the government running for another six months. Other votes were possible, including a proposal sponsored by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to cut off aid to Pakistan. But that was less certain as the chamber was bogged down by partisan fighting.
At about 3:30 p.m., a vote on the measure to keep the government running was put off, as were other votes.
“We have no more votes today. No more votes today,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor. Then he took a direct shot at Brown, suggesting he was trying to find an excuse not to take part in the debate.
“It’s obvious to me what’s going on,” he said. “I’ve been to a few of these rodeos. It is obvious there is a big stall taking place. One of the senators who had a debate tonight doesn’t want to debate. Well, he can’t use the Senate as an excuse.”
By that point, Brown was racing to the airport. Prospects for a debate were looking up.
On the way, Brown told the Boston Herald’s Joe Battenfeld that the debate “is a go,” if he makes it through airport security in time. Battenfeld also wrote on Twitter that Brown blamed his last-minute rush on Democrats and their “typical” games on scheduling votes.
Brown also called WBZ political analyst Jon Keller, the moderator of the debate, to confirm that he would be in time to tangle with Warren.
“We’re good to go for tonight,” Keller said. “A little bit of drama. I had brown hair before today began.”
Brown showed up next in Boston, when he pulled up outside the WBZ studios in his pickup truck with half an hour to spare. He was steaming, saying Democrats played games with the Senate schedule in an attempt to mess with his arrival at the debate. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.