Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

The Senate will stay in session, working weekends as well as weekdays, until the debt limit issue is cleared, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement:

The Senate has no more important task than making sure the United States does not fail to pay our bills for pre-existing obligations like Social Security for the first time in our history. To ensure that we meet this responsibility, the Senate will stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from now until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations.

The Senate tried this trick over the Fourth of July break as well, canceling it so that they could stay and work on solving the debt limit issue. How did that go?

Well, they started work on a resolution authorizing a time-limited mission in Libya. That got aborted when people recognized it had nothing to do with the debt limit. Then they went with a sense of the Senate resolution saying that maybe, perhaps, rich people should contribute to reducing the nation’s deficit. That got as far as a cloture vote on the motion to proceed, which passed that week. Later on, it failed a cloture vote to end debate on the underlying bill. In the entire one-week period there were a grand total of two roll call votes.

 

The Senate will stay in session, working weekends as well as weekdays, until the debt limit issue is cleared, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement:

The Senate has no more important task than making sure the United States does not fail to pay our bills for pre-existing obligations like Social Security for the first time in our history. To ensure that we meet this responsibility, the Senate will stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from now until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations.

The Senate tried this trick over the Fourth of July break as well, canceling it so that they could stay and work on solving the debt limit issue. How did that go?

Well, they started work on a resolution authorizing a time-limited mission in Libya. That got aborted when people recognized it had nothing to do with the debt limit. Then they went with a sense of the Senate resolution saying that maybe, perhaps, rich people should contribute to reducing the nation’s deficit. That got as far as a cloture vote on the motion to proceed, which passed that week. Later on, it failed a cloture vote to end debate on the underlying bill. In the entire one-week period there were a grand total of two roll call votes.

So it’s not like a whole lot got done on the floor of the Senate the last time everyone was told they’d work day and night to find a solution. Most of this is happening in back rooms, anyway. The one benefit to including weekends and staying in session, from the perspective of Harry Reid, is that it lessens the blow of any obstructionist tactics on whatever he and Mitch McConnell come up with in their debt limit plan. They plan to put McConnell-Reid, the last resort plan, on the floor late this week. If Jim DeMint filibusters, he can extend out the debate for as long as a week, and time is pretty short. By adding weekend days to the calendar, the impact of that is lessened. Rather than DeMint blocking the motion to proceed until a Wednesday, maybe he can only block it until Monday. This is about putting days on the legislative calendar to stop obstruction, not because of the symbolic notion that the Senate will be working furiously on anything.

If anything, this signals that McConnell-Reid will get votes sooner rather than later, after the nonsense of Cut, Cap and Balance is out of the way. Apparently President Obama met with Boehner and Cantor yesterday, so maybe a bigger deal is in the works. But I doubt it. More likely is that everyone was getting acclimated to this three-step plan, with $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and a token amount of increases in user fees, a complex series of votes so Republicans don’t have to affirmatively raise the debt limit, and a Catfood Commission II to work on entitlements down the road.

David Dayen

David Dayen