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Lawmakers United in Spirit, Little Else

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seen here at a Monday news conference with Sen. Carl Levin (left), hopes for more unity after Osama bin Laden’s death.

Majority Leader Harry Reid declared a “remarkable new day” in the Senate. 

“Today, we welcome a spring of new optimism and renewed patriotism,” the Nevada Democrat said. 

But Members offered few examples of how to bridge the divide on the budget, the debt limit and other thorny, partisan issues.

Despite his optimism, Reid laid out the same political agenda he has been pursuing for months. He said he hopes to finally finish the small-business bill that has chewed up a month on the floor, take up controversial legislation eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and hold what will surely be a politically charged vote on the House-passed budget.

“A majority of the House has embraced it, a majority of the American people has rejected it, and the Senate will soon have its say, too,” Reid said. 

But lawmakers got some breathing room in their quest to find a budget agreement. In a letter Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said better-than-expected tax receipts have pushed back the deadline for getting a debt limit hike from July 8 to Aug. 2, he wrote.

Republican leaders don’t dispute the need to increase the debt limit but are demanding serious budget reforms and spending cuts alongside it, as are many moderate Democrats.

Still, Lieberman was pessimistic.

“I think the thrill and sort of increased sense of security that the American people have would lead us here on Capitol Hill to sustain this unity on the other big threat facing our country — a very different threat — which is our debt and deficit. But I’m not optimistic about that,” he said.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) noted that the looming debt ceiling issue and Osama bin Laden are very different issues, but both needed Republicans and Democrats to come together.

“Let’s hope that it does carry over, because the only way we’re going to solve this problem is to come to some kind of consensus,” he said.

However, the bipartisan spirit didn’t even get through a full day; Reid maneuvered to force votes on the small-business bill and on a controversial district court judge nominee while ripping Republicans for being “more interested in messages” than in getting something done for the American people. 

David M. Drucker and Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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