- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saying debt-limit talks between the White House and Republicans are making some progress, Senate Democrats put off a 1 a.m. Sunday showdown vote.

“There is still a distance to go,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said just after 10 p.m. Saturday night, announcing the reprieve. “But I believe we should give everyone as much room as possible to do their work.”

The move came just hours after Republicans, who last week walked away from talks with President Obama, demanded he get involved again. The GOP’s leaders said those negotiations were already bearing fruit.

“I’m confident and optimistic that we are going to get an agreement in the very near future,” the Senate’s top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told reporters in the afternoon.

Mr. Reid angrily countered those claims on the Senate floor, saying they were “not true” and said the talks weren’t producing any “meaningful” headway, but by late night he said the White House had asked for more time to work things out.

Given that, Mr. Reid pushed back until the early afternoon a showdown vote on his own proposal to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion.

Mr. Reid said whatever deal the White House and Republicans reach, it must include a long-term debt increase that will last through the 2012 elections.

The late-night breakthrough came hours after the House voted 246-173 to defeat Mr. Reid’s bill, which followed Friday’s vote when the Senate defeated House Republicans’ $900 billion debt increase.

Taken together, the two votes showed there is no longer a viable plan on the table for raising the debt ceiling ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline.

Mr. Obama’s role in the debt talks has been highly debated. The president earlier this year insisted on having Mr. Biden lead talks, but those broke down and Mr. Obama himself got involved.

Last week, House Speaker John A. Boehner cut off those conversation too, saying that working with Mr. Obama was like “dealing with Jell-O” because the president kept moving his stance.

Mr. Boehner tried to work out a deal with congressional Democrats, and both sides seemed to narrow down the options to those things they could all generally agree on. But GOP leaders said Mr. Obama scuttled that agreement, and Republicans and Democrats each ended up writing separate plans. Those were the bills defeated in a Senate vote Friday and a House vote Saturday.

With the plans off the table, Republicans on Saturday said that was a signal for Mr. Obama to get back into the discussions and signal what legislation he would sign.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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