Senate axes July 4 break to work on debt

June 30, 2011 at 5:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday the Senate's Fourth of July vacation has been canceled to allow time to work on the debt crisis.

But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is not optimistic for any breakthrough, The Hill reported. "I doubt Harry Reid's got much constructive for us to do," said Cornyn on FOX News Channel's "America's Newsroom."

"We've basically been treading water while the Biden negotiations have been going on."

Reid announced his plans to work through the Independence holiday break one day after President Barack Obama called the issue "urgent," and implored Democrats and Republicans to work out a deal that would allow the federal government to raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2.

"I'd like to see the president's schedule," Cornyn said. "I suspect he's got a number of fundraisers for the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and for his own presidential election."

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said GOP efforts to force spending cuts would undermine efforts to reach a compromise to keep the United States from defaulting on its debts.

Inouye said more investment is needed to repair the U.S. infrastructure -- roads, highways, rail, bridges, dams and levees -- adding that spending on non-security appropriations had not increased since 2001 levels when adjusted for inflation, The Hill said.

"In short, domestic discretionary investments are not the problem; they are in fact a vital part of the solution to our economic and fiscal challenges," said Inouye, who participated in the stalled budget deficit talks led by the vice president.

Republicans have been pushing for a deal to shrink the federal debt without raising taxes. Democrats have countered that cuts to programs that serve the poor with no sacrifice by wealthy taxpayers is unjust.

GOP senators pushed for a balanced federal budget amendment, saying the government cannot get out from under its crushing debt without a constitutional amendment to force a balanced budget.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., challenged Obama to meet with the Senate Thursday to discuss proposed tax changes, but Obama didn't take him up on it traveled to Philadelphia for two DNC events.

McConnell earlier had invoked a parliamentary procedure to fast track a balanced-budget amendment proposal he said had the support of all 47 Senate Republicans.

"If this week has shown us anything it's that the American people can't wait on Democrats to do the right thing when it comes to spending and debt and putting us on a path to balance the budget," he said, calling the balanced-budget amendment a "good first step" toward curbing government spending and reducing the deficit.

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