By Bob Cusack - 07/30/11 04:24 PM EDT
Four days after publicly praising Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Senate Democratic leaders are now ripping him.
The Democrats' comments about McConnell at an impromptu press conference late Friday night signaled an about face from what they were saying about him earlier in the week. The shift also represents the schizophrenic nature of the debt-limit debate, where both Democrats and Republicans have changed positions and strategies on multiple occasions.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "It's a shame. We waited all day, [Friday] morning, Sen. Reid went up to Sen. McConnell on floor and said, 'Let's talk. Let's work this out.' Nothing, nothing all day long. Not all day long. And later, at the end of the day, a call from Sen. McConnell who said, 'I'm not going to negotiate with you.' That's unfortunate. The American people deserve better."
On Monday, when Democratic leaders were calling Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) an obstructionist, they lauded McConnell.
“I’ve said good words about Mitch McConnell,” Durbin said Monday. “He understands the gravity of the situation in a way that John Boehner does not.”
Reid on Monday said his relationship with McConnell is strong: "We’re good friends. We spend a lot of time together over the weekend."
Reid did not personally attack McConnell Friday, but expressed his exasperation with McConnell and his Senate Republican colleagues.
"Our economy hangs on the balance. And for the first time in the history of our country, unless there is a compromise, or they accept my bill, we're headed for economic disaster. It's time for the Republicans to step forward. It's time for us to be adults," Reid said.
The Reid-McConnell dispute centers around the majority leader's plan to raise the debt ceiling. Reid moved Friday night to pass it on a majority vote, triggering strong objections from McConnell.
McConnell said he was having an "out of body experience," because Reid was requesting a simple majority vote on "a matter of this magnitude."
Reid and Democratic leaders, who have acknowledged they didn't have 60 votes, said Republicans are filibustering their legislation.
A vote on the Reid plan is scheduled for Sunday at 1 a.m.
Forty-three Republican senators signed on to a letter to Reid on Saturday vowing to oppose his bill. The move showed Senate Democrats they remain short of the 60-vote threshold. GOP Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) did not sign the letter.
Asked about Democrats' praise for the minority leader earlier this week and their criticism on Friday, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart responded, "It's certainly hard to understand. And it's perplexing that they're blocking a vote on their bill."
Democrats, however, say they are stunned that McConnell — who has repeatedly said the U.S. will meet the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling — is not willing to strike a deal at this late hour.
They say from a political perspective, they understand why McConnell had to wait for House Republicans to pass their debt-limit bill before agreeing to a bipartisan accord. Now that House Republicans, after a chaotic week, passed a revised version of their legislation, it's time to compromise, they assert. The Senate quickly tabled Boehner's bill Friday night.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that after the "Boehner amendment was defeated, in a telephone conversation with Leader Reid, I was sitting there, Sen. McConnell still refused to negotiate. We will not solve this problem by standing there and folding our arms and saying, 'I am not talking to anybody.' And the nation's future is at risk."
Schumer claimed he talked to 10 Republican senators on Friday, adding, "They want to come to an agreement. But until Sen. McConnell gives them the green light, nothing is going to happen."
This story was updated at 2:20 p.m.