Senate Moves Ahead With Bill To Raise Debt Ceiling

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says it's the last chance to save the nation from default. NPR's David Welna talks with Mary Louise Kelly, about the developments on the negotiations after the House of Representatives postponed a vote on its bill last night.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Mary Louise Kelly.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The Senate is moving ahead with a bill to raise the debt ceiling this morning. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says this is the last chance to save the nation from default.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada, Majority Leader): No matter how long Republicans delay, the deadline will not move. We have hours, I repeat, hours to act. That's why, by the end of the day, today, I must take action on the Senate's compromised legislation.

KELLY: Right after Senator Reid made that statement, the top Senate Republican, Mitch Mcconnell, had sharp words of his own.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky, Minority Leader): How 'bout this? How 'bout a plan from Democrats in Washington that can pass both chambers, prevent the crisis and protect Americans from worsening economy. I would suggest to my friends on the other side, this morning, they start taking their responsibilities as a majority party a little more seriously. Because at this point, the only people who are disregarding the consequences of default are Senate Democrats; not the Republicans in the House, but Senate Democrats.

KELLY: That's Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

While NPR's David Welna is at the Capitol, and he joins us now, live. Good morning, David.

DAVID WELNA: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So both those comments were coming out of the Senate just a few moments ago. Tell us a little bit more about where things stand now, at the Senate.

WELNA: Well, these are dramatic times. Right now, the Senate Democrats are meeting behind closed doors to figure out their next moves, but their leader, Harry Reid, just said on the Senate floor we heard some of his remarks, just now but he also said that the bill in the House the one that's being sponsored by House Speaker, John Boehner is doomed. That's the word he used for it. He said, not only are House Democrats and many of Boehner's own Republicans against it, but, he says, its six month extension of the debt ceiling is a non-starter with Senate Democrats, and they well reject his bill if it gets to this chamber.

Instead, Reid implored Republicans to begin negotiating with him on his proposal, which extends the debt ceiling until after next year's elections. Otherwise it's quite similar to Boehner's proposal. And to help make changes that would win enough support to move that bill forward, saying it's now the only viable for Congress to prevent default. But he warned that he would not accept any change that would reduce the amount of the debt ceiling to only six months, although he did not say anything about a, perhaps, one year extension. But Mitch McConnell did not sound like he was willing to begin those negotiations right now.

KELLY: So just try to lay out, clearly, for people, what exactly is happening now. We just mentioned Senator Harry Reid says he's moving ahead with his own bill, backed by Democrats in the Senate not clear whether that will go anywhere in the House. This comes against the backdrop, last night, of House Republicans at the very last minute, deciding not to go ahead with the vote they had planned on their bill, because they didn't have enough votes for it. And meanwhile, that bill was not likely to go anywhere in the House.

Where does this leave things? Are we headed for a big showdown or a big sputter out on Capitol Hill, today and over the weekend?

WELNA: Well, I think the House Republicans still have the intension of bringing up their bill, possibly tweaked a bit, to try to pick up a few of these recalcitrant Republicans who intended to oppose it and see if they can pass it. It would be sent over to the Senate if that happened. But as Majority leader Reid said this morning, even if it gets over here, he is not going to let it move forward. So, he's putting his bill out as the last resort. And he says, if he brings it up tonight, the final vote on it could happen by Tuesday morning, August 2nd. That's the deadline.

KELLY: Which would be the deadline, right?

WELNA: Exactly. And then the House would have to take it up and pass it. And I guess the thinking is that, presented with the choice of passing a bill that they don't really like or facing default the next day many House Republicans would join House Democrats and pass that bill. But that's the Democratic perspective on it.

KELLY: All right. Thank you, David.

WELNA: You're welcome, Mary Louise.

KELLY: That's NPR's David Welna, updating us on the latest action from the Hill. Pesident Obama is expected to speak in just a few moments, giving his perspective from the White House, on this debt standoff still playing out.

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