WASHINGTON -- The Senate canceled its planned July Fourth recess yesterday, but partisan divisions remained razor sharp as the clock ticked on efforts to strike a deal to avoid a government default and trim huge federal deficits.
A day after President Barack Obama accused congressional leaders of procrastinating over the impasse, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the chamber would meet beginning next Tuesday. The Republican-run House is not in session this week but had already been scheduled to be at work next week.
Despite the Senate's schedule change, there was no indication the two sides had progressed in resolving their chief disagreement. Democrats insist that a deficit-cutting package of deep spending cuts also include higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans and fewer tax breaks for oil companies. Republicans say any such agreement would be defeated in Congress, a point Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made anew when he invited Obama to meet with GOP lawmakers at the Capitol yesterday.
"That way he can hear directly from Republicans why what he's proposing won't pass," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "And we can start talking about what's actually possible." McConnell's invitation seemed almost like a taunt, since well before McConnell spoke the White House had announced that Obama was heading to Philadelphia to attend Democratic fundraising events.
In Philadelphia, the president was met outside one fundraising event by protesters demanding less spending.
Later, at a donor's home, he reiterated his call for spending cuts and new tax revenue.
"The truth is you could figure out on the back of a napkin how to get this thing done," he said. "The question is one of political will."
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Obama's decision to attend the fundraisers, saying, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time." He also said McConnell had merely "invited the president to hear what would not pass. That's not a conversation worth having."
The Obama administration has warned that if the government's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit is not raised by Aug. 2, the United States will face its first default ever.