Reid and McConnell Take to Senate Floor to Battle on Way Forward on Debt Bills

Jul 29, 2011 10:49am

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports (@sunlenmiller):

Democratic and Republican leaders were battling tit for tat on the floor of the Senate today about how they will handle debt-ceiling legislation, even as the House is scrambling to try to complete a bill to send to their counterparts on the other side of the Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor first saying, he “must take action on the Senate’s legislation” by the end of the day today, what is called the “last, best chance,” the “only option” and “last train” leaving the station.

Reid said he will file cloture on his own bill tonight, an alternative to House Speaker Boehner’s version that is seemingly stalled in the House. Reid says he is giving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a last chance to sit down with him today, “to negotiate in good faith knowing the clock is running down.” 

But that’s it, Reid says, flatly declaring that his legislation is “the last train leaving the station,” and that he will file cloture to end debate on the matter tonight.

Given the rules of the Senate, Reid emphasized, if he files cloture tonight on this bill, the Senate cannot vote on it until Tuesday morning. And then the bill must still be sent to the House for consideration there. Reid underscored that if the Senate does not move on this bill by tonight, there won't be time for Congress to pass a bill before midnight Tuesday, Aug. 2nd, when the Treasury says the country will default on his debt.

“There will be no time left to vote on another bill or consider another option here in the Senate. None.”

Reid pleaded desperately with Republicans to get on board because there is no time left.

“We cannot wait for the House any longer,” Reid said, quipping about all the delayed votes that ultimately didn’t happen in the House of Representatives Thursday night, “I would ask my friend, my Republican friends, break away from this thing going on at the House of Representatives … the question is, will today’s Republicans break away from the shrill voice of the Tea Party and return to the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default.”

But McConnell then took to the floor himself to accuse Reid’s dismissal of the Boehner legislation as “blocking strategy.”

“Rather than working these last few days towards a solution to this crisis the way the Republican Majority in the House has, the Democratic Majority here in the Senate has been wasting precious time rounding up `no’ votes to keep this crisis alive,” McConnell said, “Rather than being responsible and doing their duty and come up with a bill that can pass, they’ve been busy signing people up for the `not good enough’ caucus and ginning up opposition to everything else. “

McConnell said that Reid should be working on a solution, “not a blocking strategy.”

“Our Democrat friends here in the Senate have offered no solutions to this crisis that could pass either chamber. Not one. Instead, all day long yesterday, we got chest-thumping comments about how they’re going to kill any piece of legislation that comes over here from the House, that it’s dead on arrival.”

McConnell said Reid needs to take his responsibly as a majority party leader “a little more seriously."

Then it was Reid’s turn to respond to McConnell.

“You know we’re willing to work with him, his staff, as we have, to try to come up with a solution,” Reid responded, “I just want the record to reflect very clearly, as I said in my remarks this morning, which my friend didn’t have the opportunity to hear. We cannot have in this country a six-month extension. Because a six-month extension is no extension. A six-month extension of what we’re dealing with will put us back for weeks in the same fiscal extravaganza.”

“The country is locked down," Reid said. “Congress is inoperable.  The White House is unable to do very much because they are focused on this huge problem.”

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