Senators chafe at ‘cliff’ inaction
They grouse about being summoned back to Washington early to try for deal.
WASHINGTON — Senators bid hasty goodbyes to families, donned ties and pantsuits in lieu of sweat pants and Christmas sweaters and one by one returned to the Capitol on Thursday to begin the business of doing nothing in particular.
But for once, those lawmakers were fully united, if only around their sadness and frustration at being stuck in Washington in a holiday week, peering over the edge of the fiscal abyss.
“This is no way to run things,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who checked off the various backyard sports he longed to be playing with his children: football, soccer and golf.
Members of the Senate trudged back to the Capitol ostensibly to work out a deal with the White House to avoid large tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in just a few days. With the possibility of New Year’s Eve floor festivities looming, Congress could find itself voting on the final day of the year for the first time in more than four decades.
Sen. Harry Reid, DNev., the majority leader, was eager to demonstrate that the Senate was ready to move on any idea presented by the White House or the House even as things seemed to be careening toward failure Thursday.
“Members of the House of Representatives are out watching movies and watching their kids play soccer and basketball and doing all kinds of things,” said Reid, in a ferocious floor attack on the House that he returned to periodically throughout the day Thursday. “They should be here.”
Not to be outdone, Speaker John Boehner, who failed last week to cobble together enough votes for his own bill, ordered House members to return Sunday. Saying it was the Senate’s turn to come up with an idea, he told fellow Republicans on a conference call, “The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate must act.”
Absent a solution, or even a pathway to a bill, senators whiled away the hours pondering hurricane aid and swearing in a new senator from Hawaii.