WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today called for a live quorum, a rare move asking all senators to report to the Senate floor for a "conversation" on the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling crisis.
"This government shutdown is an embarrassment to this nation, not only to the people of America but around the world," Reid said on the Senate floor. "It's time for us members of this august body to stand before the American people and publicly discuss the path forward."
A live quorum is different from a regular Senate session because it requires all senators to be present on the Senate floor. If a majority of senators are not present, the Senate majority leader can make a motion for the sergeant at arms to request the presence of all absent senators. If that move doesn't work, the Senate can direct the sergeant at arms to compel absent senators to attend or even arrest those who are absent, though it rarely ever reaches that level.
Reid's maneuver came as President Obama answered questions from reporters at the White House and warned that House Republicans are threatening to send the country into a recession.
"You don't get to say 'Unless you give me what the voters rejected in the last election I will cause a recession,'" Obama said.
"Let's stop the excuses. Let's take a vote in the House. Let's end this shutdown right now," he added.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., forcefully argued that the Senate should take the lead in solving the budget impasse "sooner rather than later."
"Sooner or later the government will resume its function, sooner or later we will raise the debt limit, the question is how do we get there?" McCain said. "Why don't we do this sooner rather than later and why doesn't the Senate lead?
"I don't care who it is or how it's shaped but let's sit down and get out of this," McCain added.
Over the past week, the House of Representatives has sent the Senate piecemeal measures to fund specific agencies, but Senate Democrats have refused to take up the bills, arguing instead that the government must be funded in its entirety, not piece by piece.
"We call upon the House to pass the Senate continuing funding resolution that will reopen government," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner proposed forming a bicameral committee to negotiate a deal to reduce the deficit, increase the debt limit and end the government shutdown.
"I want to have a conversation. I'm not drawing any lines in the sand," Boehner said. "It's time for us to just sit down and resolve our differences."
But Obama declined the idea in a phone call to Boehner. Senate Democrats called the offer a "gimmick."
"Open the government, pay our debts, and then we're eager to negotiate on anything," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "Another gimmick that says while we shut the government down and while we're threatening default, come to the table? It doesn't work how their previous gizmos worked."