The US Senate hastily dropped plans to vote Tuesday on a symbolic resolution authorising the US role in Libya amid a Republican insurrection to demand action instead on the national debt.
Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority leader, said: “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.”
His comments came after several angry speeches from Republicans who complained that Libya was the wrong measure at the wrong time and noted Mr Reid had cancelled an annual week-long recess to make progress in stalled debt talks.
“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.”
President Barack Obama and his Republican foes seemed still wide apart on a compromise to rein in the galloping US national debt over the long term while approving an increase in the US debt ceiling.
The US Treasury has publicly warned that failing to ease congressional set limits on borrowing by August 2 could trigger a possible US default and send catastrophic shock waves through the fragile US economy.
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.
Democrats, including Mr Obama, have called for raising taxes on the richest Americans, saying it is unfair to cut social programs and investments in education and science without “shared sacrifice.”
The largely symbolic Libya 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 Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces lasts.
It also forbids the deployment of US ground troops either now or if Kadhafi loses power, and roundly rejects Mr Obama’s legal argument for not seeking congressional approval for US military strikes.
The measure would carry little weight even if it passed because the House of Representatives has already rejected a similar resolution, amid public opinion polls that have found the US role in the conflict to be deeply unpopular.
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