Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday said that he believes the bipartisan, bicameral deficit-reduction talks being led by the White House should continue through both chambers’ planned recesses this summer.
“I have one big complaint: They shouldn’t be taking breaks,” Reid said in an interview on the PBS NewsHour Friday night. “Congressional recess should have no bearing. Should be no vacation.”
“So, no recess?” host Jim Lehrer asked.
“I’m saying when the Senate is in recess, we should be working on this,” Reid responded. “When the House is in recess we should keep working on this.”
The group’s members have already said that going forward, they plan to meet even when one chamber may be recessing. But Reid’s statement Friday is the latest indication that top congressional leaders believe that the Biden-led group is the best hope for a deficit-reduction deal in exchange for a vote on raising the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
The Biden-led group, which has held eight meetings since it was launched by the White House in April, has taken a total of two weeks off. The group met for the first two weeks of May, then took a hiatus for one week while the House was not in session. It held two meetings the week after that, then took another break while the Senate was out of town.
Beginning last week, the group began to meet even if only one chamber was in town. The working group held one meeting last week while the Senate was in session but the House was out, and this week held three meetings while both chambers were present.
In addition to the Biden-led group, the bipartisan “Gang of Six” also had been working on a comprehensive deficit-reduction framework, but those talks stalled after Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) announced that he is “on sabbatical,” and senators involved in those talks have not set a date by which they expect an agreement.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that Congress must vote to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 or the country will default on its debt obligations. Of the six weeks until that date, the House and Senate are in session concurrently for three; for two weeks, the House is out while the Senate is in, and for one other week, the Senate is out while the House is in.
Of course, it’s not even certain that the Biden-led group will need to meet up until the Aug. 2 deadline. The group’s members have set a July 1 deadline to work out the framework of a deal, with the understanding that any final deficit-reduction plan will likely have to be worked out by President Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Reid.
Also in Friday’s PBS interview, Reid weighed in on the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. military intervention in Libya, which has been increasingly criticized by members of both parties.
“The American people have war fatigue,” Reid said of the war in Afghanistan, according to PBS’ David Chalian. “I am confident that it will be one that’s substantial. I certainly hope so.”
On Libya, Reid reiterated his support for Obama’s decision to intervene in the conflict, which is now in its 90th day.