Senate Democratic leaders have invited President Obama and Vice President Biden to meet with their caucus members next week to discuss the way forward on negotiations on raising the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling as a deadline looms five weeks away.
Hours after announcing that the Senate would forego its July 4 recess and remain in Washington to continue the debt-limit negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday that Senate Democrats would tentatively hold three meetings next week.
On Tuesday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) will huddle with Democratic leaders to discuss his proposal for a fiscal year 2012 budget, Reid said.
Reid said he has invited Obama and Biden to meet with the entire Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday to discuss the debt-ceiling battle. And on Thursday, the White House economic team, including National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, will meet with Senate Democrats to talk about the debt limit.
The announcement by Reid comes as the tenor of the debt-ceiling debate has taken a turn for the combative following seven weeks of surprisingly civil discussions between Biden and six congressional negotiators.
Those discussions came to an abrupt halt late last week when Republicans walked out of the talks, citing an impasse on tax increases. Since then, the debt talks have largely deteriorated into political theater, with leaders of both parties engaging in the very gamesmanship in which they have decried the other side for taking part.
“It looks like we’re going to be here in the Capitol for the Fourth of July break, but it’s time for serious negotiations,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at Thursday’s news conference with Reid and other Democratic leaders. “We don’t need any extra fireworks going off here on Capitol Hill. A lot of us planned to be with our families back home next week, but that is a small sacrifice compared to what’s at stake if we don’t reach an agreement to avoid a default.”
Earlier Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a last-minute invitation for President Obama to visit the Capitol and sit down with Senate Republicans to discuss the debt – a move that Democrats dismissed as a political stunt.
“Leader McConnell knows that the president’s door has always been open,” Schumer said. “The president’s availability has never been in question. We don’t need any more stunts. We need a willingness for both sides to give a little.”
The Treasury Department has said that Congress has until Aug. 2 to vote on a deal to raise the debt ceiling or else send the country into default.