Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Thursday morning slammed House Republicans for their decision to take "the weekend off,” a shot that comes as part of a mounting Democratic effort to turn up the heat on lower-chamber Republicans to compromise on a debt-ceiling deal.
Reid's comments followed an announcement on Wednesday from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that the lower chamber would not stay in session this weekend.
Reid said in a floor speech it is "untoward, and that's the kindest word I can say, to have the House of Representatives out this weekend." Reid said their absence provides a “very bad picture for our country.”
Reid’s attack is a bit of a cheap shot; the House is out because they have no deal to vote on yet. And the chamber will move fast when and if it does.
Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon noted the Senate has no votes scheduled for two days. It is set to vote Saturday on a House-passed “cut, cap, and balance” bill. “We’re waiting for the Senate, which is run by Sen. Reid, to act on [the bill,]” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Still, in the wake of Reid’s announcement last week that the Senate will be in session every day until a deal to raise the debt ceiling is reached, and given opportunistic GOP attacks on Senate Democrats for considering recessing as far back as May, the House’s absence is bad optics. And Senate Democrats are using it to push a substantive and a political point.
First, while the fundamental problem Congress faces is a political impasse, not the clock, time is undeniably short. Reid has said daily that the slower-moving Senate now may have too few days, even if a deal is struck, to move legislation raising the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline set by Treasury.
“We are running out of time," Reid said, noting GOP threats to filibuster a debt deal would draw out floor action.
Second, Democrats believe that House Republicans, having failed to offer a passable plan to raise the debt limit, are in a corner. And independents and business groups are aghast at the prospect of a federal default and are increasingly blaming House Republican intransigence, Democrats say. By turning the screws, from Congress and the White House, Democrats hope to score political points and push House conservatives toward compromise.
“More Dem[ocrats] will be highlighting the intransigence and unreasonableness of a small minority of Tea Party Republicans in the House who are putting their extreme ideology ahead of the good of the country,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said.