Debt Ceiling ‘Dillydallying’: Frustration in Senate Before ‘Day of Reckoning

Jul 28, 2011 11:07am

abc ntl debt 110727 wb Debt Ceiling ‘Dillydallying: Frustration in Senate Before ‘Day of Reckoning

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

The action on the debt debate right now is in the House, where lawmakers are set to vote later today on House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling proposal. But even if that proposal can muster the 217 votes – likely all Republican – it’ll need to pass the House, it has little chance of becoming law.

Boehner’s proposal, which cuts about $1 trillion in spending and would require another debt ceiling debate in about six months, seems doomed to fail in the Senate, where the Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, called it “Dead on Arrival.”

All 51 Democratic Senators, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, showed a united front in a letter sent to the Speaker of the House Wednesday evening that they will vote no to Boehner’s  bill.

In a move to demonstrate the Boehner bill, even if it does pass in the House, will not go farther than that in its present form, the senators say the short-term extension in the bill “would put America at risk.” 

“Your approach would force us once again to face the threat of default in five or six short months,” the letter says, “Every day, another expert warns us that your short-term approach could be nearly as disastrous as a default and would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating.  If our credit is downgraded, it would cost us billions of dollars more in interest payments on our existing debt and drive up our deficit.  Even more worrisome, a downgrade would spike interest rates, making everything from mortgages, car loans and credit cards more expensive for families and businesses nationwide.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left the door open yesterday at a press conference to perhaps making changes to the Boehner plan and then perhaps bringing that up for a vote. But there is no firm word this is what he would do, should the Boehner plan pass in the House when it is voted on tonight.

“It’ll be altered if it gets over here,” Reid said yesterday. “I could have a vote on the Boehner plan in a matter of minutes. Procedurally, I can do that. But right now, I think we’re going to see what the House does. I think that they may need a vote on this, for whatever reason; I don’t know. But we’re weighing — the four of us have met; we’ve talked about this on many occasions in the last 24 hours. We’re on top of this. And we will — we will — if they get that over here, it’ll be defeated; if we bring it up earlier, it’ll be defeated. So we’re where we need to be on the Boehner plan. I repeat, every Democratic senator will vote against it. “

Frustration is rampant in the Senate as the deadline for default ticks closer with each day. 

Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., used a visual aide Thursday – a rather stark and bold sign that read, “WELCOME TERRORISTS,” to demonstrate the fact that come August 2 if a deal is not passed federal government employees including counterterrorism agents in the FBI and border agents would not be paid.

“Now, before we default, we could have time to make this sign for all points of entry,” Franken said as his office hoisted the “welcome terrorist” sign. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just a sample of things we definitely couldn’t afford to do.”

Democrat Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., pleaded – pleaded – for members of Congress to realize the stakes, adding that she could add “even more intense language” than “what the heck is this?”

“We are about to destroy the reputation and solvency of the United States of America not only for one day, but for a decade and maybe the rest of the century,”  an exasperated Mikulski said on the Senate floor, “We’re destroying ourselves by a self-inflicted wound because of political dysfunction, political rigidity and political ideology. What the heck is this? And I could even use more intense language. What we are about to do — we cannot allow this to happen.”

Republican Senator Isakson, R-Ga., described the impasse with a silly word: “dillydally,” and called next Tuesday the “day of reckoning.”

“I hope that will get worked out and I hope that will pass the House and come back to the Senate. It’s about time for us to say just say yes to something instead of just saying no.”

Senator Webb, D-Va.,  who fought in Vietnam as an infantry Marine, drew on a story from the Vietnam War to warn the Republicans not to “destroy the American economy in order to save it.”

“Those of us who did fight in Vietnam all remember the regretful quote of one infantry officer who lamented that during one battle he had to call in heavy artillery and airstrikes on a populated village, that he had to ‘destroy a village in order to save it.’  I do not think the Republicans, who are using this issue as a lever to bring about their view of radical change, want to look back at a fractured economic recovery, a downgraded credit rating for the world’s number one economy, a citizenry that has become more angry and less capable of predicting its own financial future, and then say, as if all of this were not predictable, that they destroyed the American economy in order to save it. “

Senator Coburn, R-Okla., said calmly but sternly, “We’re not listening. We’re not paying attention to the anxiety, fear.”

The debate continues on the Senate floor now as negotiations rage behind closed doors on the Hill.

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