U.S. Democrats stepped up their attack in a tense budget battle with Republicans on Thursday as the Senate canceled its July 4 recess and a top lawmaker accused Republicans of deliberately sabotaging the economic recovery.
With time running short before a possible U.S. default in early August, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he would hold the chamber in session next week to work on a budget deal that would allow the country to keep paying all its bills.
One day after President Barack Obama compared Senate Republicans to lazy schoolchildren, the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said Obama should come to Capitol Hill as soon as possible to discuss what could pass Congress.
"The president says he wants us to get working. I can't think of a better way than to have him come right over today. We're waiting," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Talks have not advanced since Republicans walked out last week due to an impasse over taxes. Democrats said they were awaiting a response from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Washington, over the general elements that would be possible in a deal.
Boehner aides said there was no firm offer on the table.
RACEHORSES, YACHTS AND CORPORATE JETS
Democrats took to the Senate floor to blast tax breaks for racehorses, yachts and corporate jets that benefit the wealthy. Democrats want to close roughly $400 billion worth of these tax breaks as part of the deal, which Republicans say should consist only of spending cuts.
The debate is getting increasingly personal. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley called the racehorse tax break the "bluegrass boondoggle" in a slap at McConnell, who represents a state known for horse racing.
"Giving triple crown treatment to millionaires while workers are put out to pasture, that's not right and it's not the American way," Merkley said.
Senator Charles Schumer, a member of Democratic leadership, said Republicans are blocking job-creation efforts with the hopes of pinning the sluggish economy on Obama in the November 2012 elections.
"Republicans aren't just opposing the president any more," Schumer said at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. "They are opposing the economic recovery itself."
Schumer said Democrats will advance a range of job-creation measures over the next six months that will have a tough time becoming law but could put Republicans in an uncomfortable spot as the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.1 percent and the 2012 election cycle heats up.
Those proposals, such as increased construction spending and an extended payroll tax break, could carry a price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars. That runs counter to the focus of the budget talks, where negotiators aim to reduce stubborn budget deficits by roughly $2 trillion over 10 years.
The deficit reduction measures would make it less politically painful for lawmakers to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department has warned it will run out of money to pay the country's bills.
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