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Debt crisis: Senate cancels holiday leave, but will it accomplish anything?

Heeding a call from President Obama, the Senate cancels its July 4th break to deal with the looming debt crisis. But Democratic leaders are not planning any meetings with Republicans.

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In a bid to make progress on debt talks, Reid is planning a series of meetings with the Democratic caucus next week. On July 5, Budget Committee chair Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota will “come up with a way to move forward on the budget,” Reid told reporters Thursday. On July 6, Democrats will invite President Obama and Vice President Biden to meet with their caucus. On July 7, Democrats will meet with the president’s economic team, led by Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council.

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But Republicans protest that none of these meetings include them. Rather than debating a resolution on Libya, Republicans say the Senate should be taking up issues related to raising the debt limit on the floor next week, such as a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

“We should be talking about what Americans saw we should be talking about, which is the debt,” says Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, after Thursday's announcement that the Senate will be in session but not necessarily talking about debt.

“If you’ve got a serious issue before you, that’s the issue you should focus on, but that’s not what we’re doing,” says Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee.

“It’s been 792 days since we’ve had a budget,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) of New Hampshire. “I was so excited as a new member of the Budget Committee to roll up my sleeves and put together a responsible blueprint for this country, but we were told by the majority leader that this would be foolish.”

Bipartisan debt talks led by Vice President Biden derailed last week after GOP negotiators, majority leader Cantor and Senate minority whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, walked out in protest over calls by Democrats for tax increases. The solution to the debt crisis in a recession must be spending less, not taxing more, Republicans say. Moreover, a tax increase couldn’t pass the House, so it’s a political nonstarter, they add.

Senator Conrad isn’t releasing details of the FY 2012 budget plan he will present to the Democratic caucus next week, but aides say that elements have already been reported in the press. These include: at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, 50 percent to come from spending cuts and 50 percent from tax increases. The plan is also expected to use savings from cutting tax loopholes to lower tax rates for all but the highest income Americans.

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