Video: Senate cancels planned July 4 recess

  1. Closed captioning of: Senate cancels planned July 4 recess

    >>> it will not be much of a celebration on capitol hill after being called out by president obama , the senate has now canceled its planned july 4th recess. but not before republicans fired off some choice words for the president. kelly o'donnell is nbc's capitol hill correspondent. kelly , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. the summer heat must really be getting to them around here with more than the usual frustration in both parties over the debt limit showdown and more personal comments directed to the president from republicans . there's a kind of one ip about which party is working harder and acting more seriously. visiting a south philly favorite, the president ordered up a campaign style photo-op and a lemon ice.

    >> outstanding. i strongly recommend it.

    >> reporter: but that won't beat the political heat. republicans took offense at president obama 's swipe at congress for not working hard enough to solve the debt crisis.

    >> absolutely disgraceful. he should be ashamed.

    >> reporter: republicans made it unusually personal.

    >> i respect the office of president of the united states , but i think the president has diminished that office and himself by giving the kind of campaign speeches that he gave yesterday.

    >> reporter: jumping on the president's challenge, democrat harry reid canceled the july 4th break.

    >> we'll do that because we have work to do.

    >> reporter: and republican leader mitch mcconnell made his own offer.

    >> i'd like to invite the president to come to the capitol today to meet with senate republicans .

    >> reporter: to explain to the president directly that a deal with tax increases is doomed.

    >> we know what that position is. and he also invited them to hear -- invited the president to hear what would not pass. that's not a conversation worth having.

    >> reporter: republicans were so irked, kansas senator pat roberts suggested the president needed a pill.

    >> i think he should just take a valium and calm down and come on down to talk to us, it might be helpful.

    >> reporter: the president already had other plans.

    >> hello, philly!

    >> reporter: he attended campaign events expected to raise $2.5 million. republicans complained that the president had "lectured them" to cancel events.

    >> i'm here today though, mr. president. where are you? my understanding is the president's campaigning, has a fund-raiser in philadelphia tonight.

    >> reporter: and mitt romney , who is also campaigning in pennsylvania, joined in.

    >> the president ought to be in washington meeting with republicans , meeting with democrats. he shouldn't leave that town until he has an understanding of what it's going to take to get this economy going again.

    >> reporter: and another unusual twist -- republicans boycotted a senate finance committee meeting dealing with trade agreements they actually support. they said that they were tired of the white house "jamming them" with some last-minute additions that they didn't get a chance to thoroughly review. none of them showed up. it was quite a sight and a sign of how tough things have gotten. matt?

    >> kelly o'donnell on capitol hill this morning, kelly , thank you very much.

Image: Jim DeMint, Jeff Session, Rand Paul, Kelly Ayotte, David Vitter, Ron Johnson, John Cornyn, Mike Lee
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., raises his hands to signal and end to a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 29, where he and a group of mostly freshman Republican senators said they want to forgo the holiday recess to stay in Washington and work on the debt crisis.
updated 7/1/2011 8:06:40 AM ET 2011-07-01T12:06:40

The Senate abandoned plans for a July 4 break as time dwindled for lawmakers to strike a compromise on avoiding a government default and reducing mammoth federal deficits. In a challenge to President Barack Obama, the chamber's top Republican invited him to the Capitol to discuss the impasse with GOP lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the scheduling change Thursday, a day after President Barack Obama prodded lawmakers to act swiftly to extend the government's ability to borrow money. The Senate had been scheduled to take a week's break but instead will meet beginning Tuesday.

No July 4th recess for the Senate

"We'll do that because we have work to do," Reid said.

The House had already been scheduled to work next week.

Minutes later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to invite Obama to meet with Senate Republicans "anytime this afternoon" at the Capitol. He belittled Obama's demands to include increased tax revenues as part of a deficit-cutting package, repeating what GOP leaders have long said: Congress lacks the votes to approve a measure containing tax hikes.

By meeting directly with Republicans, "that way he can hear directly from Senate Republicans why what he's proposing will not pass," he said, adding, "And we can finally start talking about what's actually possible."

Video: Rankled Republicans strike back against Obama (on this page)

The White House said Obama had no plans to accept McConnell's invitation

"What the senator invited the president to do was to hear Senate Republicans restate their maximalist position. We know what that position is," Obama spokesman Jay Carney said. "He also invited the president to hear what would not pass. That's not a conversation worth having."

At a Wednesday news conference, Obama insisted there is no more time to add. And he beseeched and badgered lawmakers to complete a deal to cut long-term deficits and lift the nation's debt ceiling before Aug. 2 to avoid what his administration says would be a calamitous government default.

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Video: Did Obama's tough talk encourage a deal? (on this page)

"There's no point in putting it off," he said Wednesday. "We've got to get this done."

But neither Obama nor the divided Congress is making it easier. The White House has identified at least $1.3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and is proposing up to $400 billion in new tax revenue. Republicans want more spending cuts and no tax increases.

Such brinkmanship relies on the clock; it is both a friend and an adversary. The problem with Aug. 2 is not that it's too soon, but that it's still four week away.

At a news conference, the president sought to upend the Republican argument that deficit-cutting negotiations had come to a standstill over the White House desire to increase taxes.

"The tax cuts I'm proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers, and corporate jet owners," Obama countered.

Ever since bipartisan debt negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden broke down last week, the White House has gradually become more aggressive, culminating with Obama's spirited news conference.

He called on lawmakers to work through their July Fourth recess. He argued that his 12- and 10-year-old daughters show more discipline getting their work done. "They're not pulling all-nighters," he said.

"Call me naive," he said at another point, "but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead."

Obama is tilting at an institutional dysfunction — one that he himself once seemed to recognize: "If you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen. The default position is inertia," he said in 2009 during the health care debate. As it turned out, his deadline came and went, and it wasn't until 2010 that the health care overhaul legislation passed.

Some deadlines are too stark to avoid, but they get pushed to the brink. The government shutdown talks earlier this year came down to the final two hours. When asked what ultimately led to a deal to avoid halting government operations, one top Obama adviser said, "the clock."

Senior presidential adviser David Plouffe was asked in a nationally broadcast interview Thursday if the deadline was real.

Video: Obama hits GOP, Boehner responds (on this page)

"There's very little debate that that's going to change," he told NBC's "Today" show. Plouffe added, "We're in a danger zone now."

Plouffe, who was Obama's campaign manager when he ran for president in 2008, said he believes Democrats and Republicans alike are going to have to "get out of their comfort zone" to reach an agreement that would increase the government's borrowing authority and avert a default on the federal debt.

The Obama administration is warning that if the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2, the U.S. would face its first default in history, potentially throwing world financial markets into turmoil. Many congressional Republicans aren't convinced, and some administration officials worry that it could take a financial plunge before Congress acts.

The pending debt ceiling vote would have to raise the current borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion by about $2.4 trillion to last until the end of 2012.

At his news conference, Obama took issue with criticism that he has not pushed for an agreement. He argued that he has spent an hour to an hour-and-a-half each with Republican senators, Democratic senators and House members from both parties.

"I've met with the leaders multiple times," he continued. "At a certain point, they need to do their job."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, replied that an increase in the debt ceiling will pass only if the White House agrees to spending cuts in excess of the debt limit increase, holds down future spending and raises no taxes.

"The longer the president denies these realities," Boehner said, "the more difficult he makes this process."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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