WASHINGTON — The polarized US Senate hastily abandoned plans to vote Tuesday on a symbolic resolution authorizing the US role in Libya after a Republican insurrection to demand action on the country’s debt woes.
“We’ve agreed, notwithstanding the broad support for the Libyan resolution, the most important thing for us to focus on this week is the budget,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced as he scrapped debate on the measure.
His comments came after several angry speeches from Republicans complaining that Reid had cancelled a cherished annual week-long July 4 recess to discuss how best to rein in the galloping national debt.
The US Treasury has publicly set an August 2 deadline by which lawmakers must reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling, but talks between US President Barack Obama and his Republican foes have stalled.
Republican leaders have rejected any tax increases as part of a final deal to raise the country’s $14.29 trillion debt ceiling in the face of a US budget deficit expected to hit $1.6 trillion this year.
“The most important national security issue facing the United States of America is the national debt,” said Republican Senator Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We should not move to a vote on Libya — and to a discussion on Libya, which frankly is almost academic at this point — until we debate the crucial issue facing the United States Senate, and that’s the issue of the national debt.”
The largely symbolic resolution, whose fate was unclear, would allow limited US strikes on Libyan targets for one year or for as long as the NATO-led campaign against strongman Moamer Kadhafi’s forces lasts.