The Senate’s In Session, But Debt Ceiling Talks Still Stalled

Jul 5, 2011 2:09pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

As senators head back to Washington, D.C. today after their July 4 recess this week was cancelled due to the remaining debt ceiling impasse, both sides remain entrenched in their positions, and the road to compromise remains unclear.

There are just 27 days until the nation goes into default, on the August 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department for action to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.  The White House said last week that they’d like to see a deal reached by July 22 in order to be able to raise the limit before defaulting on August 2.

That idea has had some support in the Senate.

“The White House I think is being very wise and careful,” Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week on conference call with reporters, “They say we should not step to the edge of the cliff because we might fall off. So I think having a date in advance of August 2 to have an agreement in place makes sense.”

But so far that advanced date has done little to speed up the pace of action on Capitol Hill and with the White House, with both sides blaming the other for the stalemate.

The main obstacles facing the negotiations is a stalemate over taxes.  Republicans have been preaching that any deal must not include any added revenues. Democrats Tuesday called the Republicans' position on revenues “stubborn” and “rigid,” and like a broken record called again for revenues to be considered as part of a package together with spending cuts.

After turning down Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., invitation last Thursday for the president to meet directly with Senate Republicans, another invitation – this one from Senate Democrats – is still outstanding.

After calling the Senate to be in session this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that his caucus will be “focusing” all this week on the debt negotiations, and laid out late last week a vague outline of the meetings.

When the Senate comes back into session Tuesday, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Conrad, D-N.D., will reveal his budget to the Democratic caucus. On Wednesday there will be a caucus meeting called – specifically so that the president and vice president can join on the Hill. It is not yet known whether the White House will accept this invitation.  On Thursday, President Obama’s economic team, led by Gene Sperling, will come to the Hill to meet with Senators. 

But some senators are frustrated that the very first order of business today on the Hill is a vote on Libya, whether to proceed with debate over the McCain-Kerry legislation authorizing the use of American force  in Libya. Some are asking for the debt ceiling negotiations to be opened up to the Senate floor and debated in public rather than behind-closed-doors, and say that debating anything else right now is a distraction as the clock ticks closer to the deadline for action on the debt.

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