Senate cancels July 4 recess

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday morning that he will cancel the chamber's July 4 recess so that lawmakers can focus on stalled deficit-reduction negotiations.

Reid will schedule a vote on Tuesday, July 5, forcing senators to cancel their travel plans and show up to the Senate floor.

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The move follows President Obama’s challenge to Congress during a news conference Wednesday to skip its summer recesses until lawmakers reach an agreement to raise the national debt limit.

The Senate’s action puts pressure on the House to cancel its recess, scheduled for the week of July 18.

House lawmakers are scheduled to be in session next week, having spent the past week at home meeting with constituents during a pre-July 4 recess.

Reid said senators should work on legislation to create more jobs throughout the country at a time the national unemployment rate is above 9 percent.

“There’s still so much to do to put Americans back to work, to cut our deficit and [get] our economy back to work,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “It is really important that we do this. That moment is too important, the obstacle is too steep and the time too short to waste even a moment.”

Obama poked lawmakers for taking time off from Washington while a national default looms, comparing them unfavorably with his studious daughters, Malia and Sasha.

“You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time,” he told reporters. “It’s impressive. They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters.”

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Administration officials say if Congress does not raise the debt limit by Aug. 2, the federal government will not be able to pay off its creditors.

Senate Democratic leaders debated Thursday afternoon whether to cancel the July 4 recess, and convened a special caucus meeting to discuss the pros and cons with their colleagues.

One Democratic senator predicted the decision would depend on the reaction of Republicans. He said if Republicans voted against an adjournment resolution, it wouldn’t look good for Democrats to leave town.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on Wednesday threatened to object to any motion to recess the Senate, which could have forced a vote on the issue.

“Until we work on the budget, on the debt limit, on the people's business we don’t have a right to go home and adjourn,” Sessions said from the Senate floor.

Reid ultimately decided the Senate could not take its long-scheduled recess when Obama pointedly challenged Congress to stay in session.

“It is often said that with liberty comes responsibility. We should take that responsibility seriously. I’m confident we do. That’s why the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, the day after the fourth,” Reid said.

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Reid said Tuesday’s vote would likely take place in the afternoon and that the Senate would stay in session for the week.

Senators say they’re willing to stay in Washington next week, but grumble the time will likely be spent in partisan gridlock, watching an empty floor while the clerks read quorum calls. 

“I’m happy to be here if they stop filibustering jobs bills,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said of her Republican colleagues.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has called for a robust debate on the Senate floor, but that’s not likely given the few votes and debates that have taken place so far this year.

“Let's not be here just to be here. Let’s be on the floor debating in a constructive way the biggest challenge our country faces which is spending and debt,” Vitter said.


—Josiah Ryan contributed to this report. 

Updated at 11:00 am