GOP Senators Protest Lack of Progress on Debt Talks

By Pete Kasperowicz – 06/30/11 03:11 PM ET

Republicans on Thursday effectively shut down the work of the Senate by objecting to a request to have the body consider a resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya and let the Senate Finance Committee take up pending free-trade agreements.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asked for unanimous consent to allow both of these issues to move forward. But on the trade issue, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, as did Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Libya.

“I realize this is a very important issue, and I understand that a number of my colleagues have worked very hard to bring this issue to the floor,” Johnson said. “But the fact of the matter is it simply doesn’t address the fact that we’re bankrupting this nation. So, Mr. President, I do object.”

After that, Reid said the Senate would remain in a period of morning business, and said no votes would be held until next Tuesday. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) immediately took to the floor to blast the Republican decision to block work on these two issues as “amazing” and “outrageous.”

“I hear a lot about wanting to get the people’s work done but then I hear objections to trying to move to try to get the people’s work done,” Menendez said. “So, pretty outrageous.”

But several Republicans took the floor, led by Johnson, and complained that while President Obama criticized Congress for not reaching a solution on the debt ceiling, neither Obama nor Vice President Biden is around to engage in talks.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) noted that Obama is in Philadelphia at a fundraiser, and Biden in is Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

“If he’s going to go on national television and chastise us not for doing work, we’re here saying we want to be working on the nation’s problems,” Paul said. “Where is the president? Campaigning.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said Senate Republicans wrote Reid a letter Thursday asking him when Democrats would put “serious bills” on the floor to address spending and debt, when the Senate Budget Committee will meet to work on a budget proposal, when a spending cap bill might be put on the floor, and when a balanced-budget amendment could be considered.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said Democratic objections to spending cuts shows they are “addicted” to spending.

“Washington is addicted to spending, and the addict in chief is President Obama,” he said. “He’s promised many times to quit, to quit spending, to live within our means, but he keeps falling off the wagon. And now, for the fourth time since he’s been president, he’s asking Congress to refill the bottle so that he can keep spending, keep borrowing, and keep increasing America’s debt.”

— This story was updated at 4:03 p.m.