Monday, July 18, 2011 | 10:40 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Back when I was in graduate school, I had a professor who said most U.N. treaties are concluded between the hours of 2 and 6 in the morning, simply because the diplomats get so sick and tired of working that they buckle down and finish the fine print.
Sen. Harry Reid is hoping to inflict that sort of pressurized logic on the Senate, which, he just announced, he’ll be keeping in session every day -- weekends too -- until Congress strikes a deal on the debt limit.
Lawmakers have been locking horns over how to strategically raise the national debt ceiling in a way that lets the country avoid default and also start to pay down what it owes.
Congressional leaders met with the President on a near-daily basis last week to try to hash out some sort of a deal. But while the process got leaders to put various options on the table, they’ve been digging in more than they’ve been dealing.
With the deadline of August 2 fast approaching -- that being the day Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the country won’t be able to meet its obligations anymore — everyone is losing their patience.
“The Senate has no more important task than making sure the United States does not fail to pay our bills for pre-existing obligations like Social Security for the first time in our history,” Reid said. “To ensure that we meet this responsibility, the Senate will stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from now until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations.”
This is the second time Reid has denied lawmakers their usual recesses. The first time was right before the Fourth of July, when the President admonished lawmakers for taking too many vacation weeks and not spending enough time in Washington getting the business of government done.
Reid held lawmakers in session for their traditional Fourth of July week-long holiday, giving them a four-day weekend over the fourth, but calling them back the following Tuesday to buckle down and get some real work done. It didn’t really have the intended effect.
That week, the Senate took two votes: a “Motion to Instruct the Sergeant at Arms to Request Absent Senators” -- a.k.a. taking attendance -- a procedural motion to proceed to consideration of a bill that would express the sense of the Senate that millionaires and billionaires ought to do their part to resolve the budget deficit. (If a “Sense of the Senate” resolution sounds a bit fluffier than other law, that’s because it is; in any case, while Senate did eventually proceed to talking about it, they didn’t agree to it.)
Reid defended the choice, saying the time spent in session was valuable to for getting things done behind the scenes, and reminding lawmakers that not everything happens on the Senate floor.
There are fifteen days until August 2.