WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are setting up a catastrophic U.S. default by deciding to take a weekend off while time to resolve deadlocked negotiations ticks down to a close, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday.
With just 11 days until the United States can no longer borrow fresh money -- and will have to start letting bills go unpaid -- Reid and Democratic policy boss Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor to express shock at the House for quitting for a couple days.
"It's hard to comprehend how the United State House of Representatives, at the height of this fiscal crisis has decided to take the weekend off," Reid said, suggesting it was a way for the GOP leaders to give in to the extreme wing of the party that wants a default, without actually appearing to do so.
Reid noted that Senate rules allow any senator to slow the legislative process there to a crawl with objections -- and that a number of senators have said they oppose raising the nation's debt ceiling. With a debt deadline looming on Aug. 2, any lawmaker in the more deliberative body could snarl the process if any legislation comes from the House too late.
"It appears to me they're going to do indirectly what they can't do directly by not sending us whatever they decide to do in time to get it done," Reid said. "I think that the country is staring in the face a default on the debt because of the House of Representitives being out this weekend."
Schumer chimed in that it "is amazing that they would be gone."
The Democrats speculated that maybe the House leaders want to craft a deal at the last second that they know Democrats would never accept -- unless it was to avoid a disaster that sets the nation back for a decade or more.
"They hope to jam us at the last minute with something, and say 'Take it or leave it,' which is playing with fire," Schumer said. "That could create default, and if they do it, it would be on their shoulders."
Representatives for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not immediately answer a request for comment.