The Senate will cancel a planned recess next week, returning to Washington after the long Fourth of July weekend to get back to work on a deal to raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit.
Senators were to spend the traditional holiday week in their home states. But after President Obama challenged lawmakers during a press conference on Wednesday to stay in town to work on a debt-reduction package, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday that the chamber will reconvene on Tuesday.
“It is often said that with liberty comes responsibility. We should take that responsibility seriously. I’m confident we do. That’s why the Senate will reconvene Tuesday, the day after the Fourth,” Reid said. “We’ll do that because we have work to do.”
Also Thursday, Senate leaders from both parties invited the president to meet with lawmakers to discuss the debt reduction efforts.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked Obama to visit the Capitol to talk with Senate Republicans.
“I’d like to invite the president to come to the Capitol today to join Republicans for lunch, or at any time this afternoon that he can make it. That way he can hear directly from Republicans why what he’s proposing won’t pass. And we can start talking about what’s actually possible.”
After canceling the Senate recess, Reid said he has invited Obama and Vice President Biden to meet with the entire Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday. A similar meeting with the White House economic team, including National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, is planned for next Thursday.
At his press conference, Obama had scolded lawmakers for stalling the negotiations when time is running out. The Treasury Department has set an Aug. 2 deadline for Congress to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before it defaults on its debt.
Obama chided Congress for an unusual on again-off again schedule that has ensured the House and Senate have staggered their work in Washington, making cross-chamber negotiations difficult. The Senate has met this week, while House members have been visiting their home districts. The reverse had been planned for next week.
“They’re in one week, they’re out one week,” Obama said. “And then they’re saying, ‘Obama has got to step in.’
“You need to be here,” he said. “I’ve been here.”
His scolding made it virtually impossible for Democrats, who control the Senate, to take the holiday recess, especially after several freshmen Republicans announced Wednesday that they would gum up Senate action unless the chamber returns July 5.
But that doesn’t mean senators aren’t cranky about the decision, particularly because many believe they can make little progress by sequestering the full Congress in Washington. Instead,Obama, Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) need to come to a breakthrough.
“I’m thrilled,” Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) said sarcastically on Wednesday after the president’s press conference. She was leaving a lengthy Democratic caucus meeting to discuss the chamber’s schedule. “I just thought: How awful that I have to go to Maryland, be in parades, go over to the Eastern Shore, have lunch at Old Salty’s with my seafood. Oh, my god. Who would want to do that?”
She added, “The question is not whether the Senate will be here--maybe we will or not--is the Senate actually going to get serious about doing things. To be here, while all we do is huff and puff and hope we can blow the deficit away is just posturing.”
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