In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the chamber would not recess until Congress passes a deal to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit.
“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 in a statement Monday afternoon. “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.”
Reid’s move came as negotiations over the debt ceiling entered their final two weeks. The White House has said that leaders must agree on a deal by Friday to give both chambers time to move the legislation before an Aug. 2 deadline, when it says the government would begin to default on its debt obligations.
Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) have been making progress on a deal that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised in return for about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. The plan would also call for the formation of a bipartisan 12-member committee to identify additional deficit savings by the end of the year. Leaders in both chambers have not shut the door to such a deal, although rank-and-file Republicans have signaled strong opposition.
In announcing President Obama’s threat to veto the House GOP’s “Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011,” the White House said it would set up a “false and unacceptable choice” between failing to lift the nation’s borrowing limit by Aug. 2, resulting in the country’s first default, or passing a balanced-budget amendment that would require draconian spending cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other federal programs in future years.
“Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. “Increasing the federal debt limit, which is needed to avoid a federal government default on its obligations and a severe blow to the economy, should not be conditioned on taking these actions.”
The statement added: “Instead of pursuing an empty political statement and unrealistic policy goals, it is necessary to move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground.”
In a subsequent Rose Garden speech announcing his nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Obama drove home that point. “We can’t let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing in Washington,” he said. “We can’t stand in the way when it comes to doing the right thing on deficits.”