POLITICS
06/17/2011 08:11 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2011

Joe Biden's Deficit Group Needs To Quit Taking Breaks, Harry Reid Says

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) won’t argue with Vice President Joseph Biden’s popularity on Capitol Hill, or with his effectiveness in working across party lines. But he is giving his former Senate colleague some unsolicited advice on how he runs his bipartisan deficit meetings with lawmakers.

“I have one big complaint, and that is, they shouldn’t be taking breaks,” Reid said Friday during an interview on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

“Right now, there’s a process where the House is in two weeks, they’re out a week," he said. "I’m saying that when the Senate is in recess, we should be working on this. When the House is in recess, we should be working it. The mere fact that one of the bodies is out of there should not stop the Biden group from going forward.”

Reid's comments come ahead of the House and Senate gearing up for staggered breaks over the July 4th recess. The House is out for the week of June 27th while the Senate is in, and they alternate schedules the following week.

Biden's bipartisan deficit group, which includes a total of six lawmakers from both chambers, isn't currently slated to meet during those weeks. The group has been meeting since early May in an effort to strike a deal on a massive deficit reduction package tied to a vote on raising the debt limit. This week, the group ramped up its meeting schedule from one to three times a week.

Reid praised the group for making steady progress -- Biden recently said he is already "confident" the group can make more than $1 trillion in cuts -- but said it is nearing the point in negotiations when President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will need to step in and start making some of the tougher decisions.

“Joe Biden has done the heavy lifting,” he said. “But in the end, as you know, the president will have to step forward.”

Reid expressed frustration with freshman House Republicans, many of whom rode into Congress with the backing of the Tea Party movement, who vow not to raise the debt limit under any circumstance. Failure to raise the debt limit before August 2, when the government is predicted to default, will not only hurt the country but the global economy, he said.

“I have to say that I am very troubled with some of the- I wanted to use a word I shouldn’t use- these people in the House, these tea party folks who say … we’re not willing to raise the debt under any condition,” he said. “But I think cooler heads will prevail.”