Posted: 4:59 pm Saturday, July 30th, 2011
By Jamie Dupree
The early hours of work from the U.S. Congress on this Saturday featured more finger pointing and blame game from Democrats and Republicans, even as leaders of both parties repeated their optimism that there would be a debt deal before a Tuesday deadline.
“Our country is not going to default,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who even though he reportedly wouldn’t sit down to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, had spoken by phone with both President Obama and Vice President Biden this afternoon.
The news of that communication came as Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi went to the White House to meet with Mr. Obama; it wasn’t clear what their meeting was meant to do in terms of a deal.
All the while, the clock was ticking towards a key procedural vote in the Senate, set for 1:01 am on Sunday morning, when Sen. Reid would need 60 votes to move ahead with his plans on the debt limit.
Last night, Reid orchestrated a quick vote to reject the House GOP debt limit bill that passed 218-210 on Friday; today, the House turned the tables on him, rejecting Reid’s plan by a vote of 246-173.
“Today’s vote shows the Reid plan can’t pass the House; time for the Senate to pass the House bill,” said Speaker Boehner.
But at his own news conference, Reid labeled his plan that’s now on the Senate floor, “the only game in town,” as he blistered Republicans for filibustering the plan, though it only served to show that Reid does not currently have 60 votes to move it forward.
“We have until midnight tonight,” Reid said, alluding to a scheduled vote an hour after that at 1 am to shut off debate on Reid’s plan, which will need 60 votes.
The House and Senate floors were filled with speeches on the debt limit today as well, as the Founding Fathers might have been proud to see how their experiment was working out on this Saturday – the House floor featured cheers and catcalls, while Senators spoke in serious tones – and at length – about the debt limit challenge.
As the House wrapped up debate on the debt limit plan from Reid, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi jabbed at Speaker Boehner over the choices he made in negotiations, drawing cheers from her side and verbal abuse from Republicans.
“He chose to go to the dark side,” Pelosi said derisively of the Speaker, drawing boos and catcalls from the GOP side of the aisle, as the House floor swayed with partisan emotion.
And just as Speaker Boehner had been heckled by Democrats a day earlier, Pelosi – who was clearly enjoying the moment – went right back to the well.
“And I repeat, he chose to go to the dark side,” Pelosi said one more time, to even more boos and cheers.
Meanwhile, across the Capitol on the Senate floor, while there were some sharp points made by Senators, it was not with the fervor of the People’s House, as members of both parties urged a deal and not a date with Tuesday’s deadline.
“Somewhere there’s a silver bullet,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) about the search for a deal.
“The Lone Ranger had it. Tonto had it. Wyatt Earp had it. Why can’t the U.S. Congress have it?” Isakson said.
At this point, the Senate was still headed towards that early morning Sunday vote, with no deal in sight.
But if there is no deal by then, maybe the Senate just might resemble the House in terms of the tenor of our political debate.
This is one night I want to be up in the gallery of the Senate Chamber, just in case it does.