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September 19, 2014

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Harry Reid to keep Senate in session as debt limit deadline looms

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Insisting there is too much to do for lawmakers to spend a week away from the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, right, accompanied by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 30, 2011, after announcing on the floor that he intends to bring senators back to work right after the July 4th holiday to tackle the looming debt-limit crisis.

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Harry Reid

Sun Coverage

WASHINGTON - You know things are serious when senators are willing to skip their most patriotic vacation.

Sen. Harry Reid announced this morning that he’d keep the Senate in session next week, giving lawmakers only the Fourth of July off in a week that they traditionally spend out of Washington, to continue working toward a deadline on a budget compromise that is now only a month away.

The move seems a direct response to comments President Barack Obama made in a press conference yesterday about Congress’ legislative habits:

“If by the end of this week we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to, you know, start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done,” Obama said. “You need to be here. I’ve been here ... you stay here, let’s get it done.”

Obama seemed to be directing his comments mostly at the House, remarking: “you know, they’re in one week, they’re out one week, and then they’re saying Obama’s gotta step in.”

But the House, which is not in session this week, was already scheduled to be in session next week -- so it was the Senate that took the none-too-subtle cue.

“There is still so much to do to put Americans back to work, cut our deficit and get our economy back on track,” Reid said this morning in his opening comments on the Senate floor. “And that work is too important, the obstacles too steep and the time too short to waste even a moment.”

There are many items on Congress’ plate now, but none looms so large and so urgent as the need to strike a budget deal in advance of the debt ceiling deadline. In early August, absent a deal that allows the U.S. to raise its legally mandated debt limit, which now sits at $14.294 trillion, the country will start to default on its debts, likely causing a ricochet effect throughout all federal spending programs and the global markets.

Republicans have been pushing hard against the idea of raising the debt ceiling absent deep cuts to the federal budget, arguing that the country can’t shoulder more debt when it's already borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar spent. Democrats agree that there should be cuts, but point out that raising the debt ceiling isn’t a blank check to incur new debts, so much as a means of paying off the bills we’ve already racked up.

The threat of default -- which would be a first for the U.S. -- has exacerbated tensions and accelerated the process of a budget deal for fiscal 2012, which begins on Oct. 1, about two months after the debt ceiling will be hit.

There have been all sorts of mitigating proposals thrown out. Some senators have suggested passing a short-term debt limit increase, to tide the country through the rest of the year. Others have said it might be worthwhile to seek a declaration of the debt ceiling as unconstitutional, vitiating the legal limit altogether.

But whatever interim measures smaller groups of lawmakers pursue, at the end of the day, a deal has to be made -- and that’s exactly where things are breaking down.

Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl bowed out of a budget negotiation group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, complaining that the group had reached an impasse over collecting revenues. It was the second group tasked with drafting a compromise to falter, the first being the so-called Gang of Six, led by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, when Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn -- a debt commission member who had already endorsed one compromise proposal through that body -- withdrew himself from the group.

Democrats have argued that in order not to hamstring the economy in the name of cutting, the government is going to have to collect more taxes as well -- not from the working, middle class, they stress, but by cutting subsidies for luxury items and large conglomerates like the big oil companies, and by allowing the tax cut scheme initiated under President George W. Bush to expire for those claiming $250,000 in income.

Republicans have bristled at the idea of cherry-picking tax programs to demonize, though National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas did say Wednesday that he thought individual tax schemes were up for discussion on a case-by-case basis.

Overall though, Republicans argue the recipe to mend the country’s revenue problem is that the tax code needs to be rewritten to encourage more private enterprise, which they say in turn will create more taxpayers.

But without a group in place to air these ideas and strike compromises, it’s not clear exactly what all these lawmakers are going to be doing in Washington over the next few weeks, other than delivering very impassioned political speeches on the congressional floors.

Conrad said Wednesday he plans to unveil the budget committee Democrats’ proposal during the extra work week, but when the Sun asked if he thought it could draw bipartisan support, he grinned with a short laugh in saying “it could.”

It looks like this round of the battle is shaping up to be like those that came before: those being the tax cut compromise of December 2010, and the fiscal 2011, government-shutdown-avoiding deal of April 2011, both of which were ultimately concluded between congressional leaders hunkered down in offices that became the eye of storming political tempests everywhere else in Congress.

The one difference may be that the president seems to be talking a lot tougher to the members of Congress; especially to those on the Republican side.

“If everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things ... then i think it will be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that they won’t come to the table and get it done,” Obama said. “Everybody else has been willing to move off their maximum position, they need to do the same. My expectation is they’ll do the responsible thing.”

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  1. This is hilarious people are complaining about having to pay taxes that they back doored with the Republicants. The long term goal of the Republicants was to drain the federal taxes. Like the tax cuts the Bushes gave to the country only increased our National Debt, "W" was the classic giving working people a 2% tax cut and the wealthy a 13% tax cut. Cut and paste this link and it is evident what the problem is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_de.... Now maybe you understand why we are in the shape we are. The Republicants are the cause of all the problems and are only glorified by the whiners.

  2. Increasing taxes on evil "rich" people and evil "rich" business is not going to be enough while the Marxists in power keep spending like drunken sailors. It's like hitting the buffet 3 times a day and spending 15 minutes in the gym to make up for it. Obummer is trying to rally his constituents (minimum wage earners, or more likely welfare cases) behind him with this nonsense. Corporate jets, really ? The supposed 3 billion savings over 10 years are wildly exaggerated. How about cutting welfare on people having more kids while already on welfare, or drug addicts that use my tax dollars to get high ?

  3. It takes money to make money. If all these rich people stop spending money the rest of you are in trouble. They are going to control their money as they want, when they are happy they spend, boats, cars, homes, travel, put many folks to work supporting their rich habits. Piss them off they will stay at the beach home and stay put. Same goes for business, when they feel good they hire and spend on upgrades, when they feel pressured it stops. Those who have never run a business or have had saved money may not understand this. They assume the money made by a rich person partly belongs to them because they are underprivileged or not so lucky. You only need to watch a few episodes of "I won the Lottery" to find out people who never had any money do NOT give it all away once they get some. It is not the same share and share alike anymore. This is the USA, land of opportunity, it is what you work and make of it, not put your hand out.

  4. You are right President Obama is spending to cover the excessive spending the Bushes left the US in debt for. It will only get worse if Congress does not do something about the debt by Aug 2nd which seems to be some goal that another Republicant has thrown out there. The Republicants and Democrats have raised the debt ceiling whenever it seemed to suit them. During the past 10 years it would have been un-American to deny Bush the funds to fight terrorism and not get anything done,
    Obama at least got Bin Laden.
    During the recent Bush years, this rate was on a slow but steady increase: Congress did this to finance the Bushes exploit to rid the world of Saddam Hussein under a veil of lies about weapons of mass destruction. Which turned out to be a pack of lies.
    Bushes debt increases.
    2000: 58.2%
    2001: 57.74%
    2002: 59.9%
    2003: 62.31%
    2004: 63.57%
    2005: 64.29%
    2006: 64.98%
    2007: 65.67%
    2008: 70.49%
    If you think this will decrease until these debts are paid off, you are seriously mistaken. We are just barely paying off the interest today.These just seems to be another present the Bushes left the taxpayers.

    Alan Greenspan was on CNN two weeks ago and he seemed to think the only way to decrease the debt was to increase revenue and control spending. It is something I do not look forward to but we have to cut the debt.

    I am not willing to send my Grandparents to the poor house (they get by on 1320.00 a month from Social Security) thats two peoples "entitlement" for eighty years of work for two people or deny them Medicare. I think Medicaid is a crock, but Bush thought it was the right thing to do. Another Bush present will continue to pay for. If correcting this cost me another $30.00 a week it is something I have to accept for paying for Bush 's blunders.

  5. This is another stupid idea from good old dirty harry. There won't be a compromise from either side till the 11 hr so why even bother. I say give them the rest of the time off and just open back up for the lsat week. We would hear less political posturing and get better results.

    pri1ncess.... If you have them I would like to see the numbers on Obamas increase to the deficit.

  6. Commonsense 101 If you look in the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_de..., you will see that the Obama numbers are not much better, this due to the cost and wars that he inherited from the Bush administration. That why I say ,"These just seems to be another present the Bushes left the taxpayers".

  7. A Balanced Budget Amendment makes as much sense as a Constitutional Amendment to define Marriage and is much more destructive.

    Wall Street geniuses will find another means of gorging themselves with someone else's cash until the economy fails again, and it WILL FAIL AGAIN. Without any means of infusing cash to prop up the banks, the entire American financial system will crash.

    When the credit cards don't work and the bank lines are 14 hours long, the National Guard will have to be called in to maintain order - and the Constitution suspended because Courts will not be able to handle the case load.

    Furthermore the next conservative Paranoid in the White House will find a way to create a war and the Debt will skyrocket.

    Reagan, H.W. Bush and W. Bush account for 80% the current National Debt. W. Bush spending accounts for nearly half of today's Debt.

    The secret to controlling run away Debt is:

    #1. Bring back the draft - this will prevent nearly all wars.
    #2. Pay for all wars as they happen with an immediate tax increase on deployment. Fight now, pay now - that stops wars.
    #3. Keep "No Bid Contract" Republicans out of the White House and prevent them from throwing borrowed taxpayer money at their Religious Friends, like Erik Prince of Blackwater.

  8. #4. Eliminate the tax loopholes. Loopholes, deductions and tax shelters benefit SPECIAL INTERESTS in return for campaign donations. (Republicans consider this a tax increase and they are fighting to keep ALL SPECIAL INTEREST LOOPHOLES....their moneyed friends come before the people of America as usual.)
    #5. Allow Bush tax cuts to expire. Fareed Zakira says this will create $3.9 Trillion in revenues during the next 10 years - but Republicans are fighting this too - they consider it a tax increase!!

  9. "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. " Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

    - BHO"

    I agree with the president for once :)