published Friday, July 1st, 2011

Senators put barbecue on hold for debt showdown

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    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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WASHINGTON — The region’s U.S. senators will have to put their July 4th barbecues on hold.

As the Obama administration ramps up efforts toward a deal to raise the nation’s current borrowing limit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday canceled a long-planned recess for next week.

“What we have to do is too important not to be here and try to resolve what needs to be done,” Reid said at a packed Capitol Hill press conference. “We really don’t have any time to waste.”

Republicans accuse the Democratic Senate majority of playing politics instead of working on a debt deal, especially now that it’s likely the Senate will be voting on the Libyan war next week rather than the deficit.

“We’ve got a short fuse and a big problem, and I think leadership would dictate that you stay here and work, but you work on your problem, not something else,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., after casting a vote.

Administration officials say the nation will start defaulting on its loans Aug. 2. Top Republicans walked out of negotiations last week.

That leaves a brief window to reach a deal on some of the nation’s touchiest political issues. If they fail to do so, economists warn, interest rates will rise, the stock market will slump and the dollar’s value will sink.

Reid said he’s reached out to the White House to schedule high-level meetings at the Capitol throughout next week. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been invited.

On Thursday Democrats repeatedly took to the Senate floor to lambaste Republicans, claiming the GOP members are protecting special interests instead of working to cut the deficit.

Among the items Democrats pointed to are tax write-offs for corporate jets, yachts and the horse industry.

Republicans say it’s smoke and mirrors.

“If you look at the kind of things that are being thrown out, they go almost nowhere at solving the problem,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told a throng of reporters.

“Talking about taxes on corporate jets? I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me. We’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars, so these are all poll-tested things,” he added.

Corker called the president’s Wednesday news conference “political theater” and said he thinks “there will be no grand bargain” between the two parties on whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

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