McConnell: Debt debate 'starts today'
January 2nd, 2013
09:30 PM ET
2 years ago

McConnell: Debt debate 'starts today'

(CNN) – Hours after Congress sent a bill for the president's signature to avoid the fiscal cliff, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already gearing up for the next showdown.

The Kentucky Republican wrote in an op-ed that President Barack Obama should be prepared to "have a fight" over government spending and the debt limit in the coming weeks, adding that the tax debate is now a thing of the past with the new legislation.

"I have news for him: The moment that he and virtually every elected Democrat in Washington signed off on the terms of the current arrangement, it was the last word on taxes. That debate is over," McConnell wrote in the Yahoo News op-ed. "Now the conversation turns to cutting spending on the government programs that are the real source of the nation's fiscal imbalance. And the upcoming debate on the debt limit is the perfect time to have that discussion."

By late February or early March, Congress will have to vote on raising the debt ceiling, the amount the government can legally borrow. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has already said federal borrowing has reached the current $16.394 trillion debt ceiling. Also in March, Congress will have to deal with the delayed sequester–automatic spending cuts–and vote on a continuing budget resolution.

The upcoming "mini-cliffs," as some have called it, are almost sure to have partisanship similar to that seen in the fiscal cliff debacle.

Republicans say they oppose raising the debt limit, preferring instead to cut spending. In the 2011 debt limit fiasco, Democrats argued it was necessary to raise the ceiling and prevent the government from defaulting on its loans. Many are repeating the same argument.

Obama said in his statement late Tuesday night at the White House that he wants "less drama" and "brinksmanship" in future negotiations over fiscal matters.

"I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed," he said.

House Republicans expressed frustration late Tuesday night over the fiscal cliff deal's lack of spending cuts, with many vowing to pursue aggressive cuts in the debt ceiling debate.

McConnell wrote that the president should get ready for the battle.

"The President may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it's the fight he is going to have, because it's a debate the country needs," he said, adding that Obama "must show up" and deliver a serious plan for slashing federal spending.

"That's the debate the American people really want. It's a debate Republicans are ready to have. And it's the debate that starts today, whether the President wants it or not," McConnell wrote.

– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: Debt • Fiscal Cliff • Mitch McConnell
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. strangerq

    Translation – McConnell got his rear end kicked, and is now talking smack.

    January 3, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  2. Martin

    I hope to God McConnell means it! The spending is out of control and we are mortgaging our children's future!

    January 3, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  3. Please Grow Up

    Cut legislator's pensions and health insurance. Cut the F-35. Cut spending by firing the "Halliburton" and other "contractors" of the Bush/Cheney wars. Stop protecting the con-artists who caused the recession. Cut tax subsidies to energy companies, one by one. Cut tax 'breaks' to companies who downsize, but who continue to make gigantic profits.

    January 3, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  4. betterdays

    Situation described by McConnell with near total accuracy. Just one problem: the majority of Americans actually believe we can just raise taxes on the wealthy, cut military spending, and solve the problem... or they are even more ignorant of reality and merely want Obama to "win" and Republicans to "lose" in any negotiation. That's what America has become, in the main.

    January 3, 2013 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  5. Danger

    Why does our political culture continue to use rhetoric like "showdown" and "have a fight"? We all understand the two major parties that drive this country have different philosophies for governing, but that doesn't mean we can't respectfully share opposing points of view and arrive at a sensible outcome. Why can't we hear more words coming from our elected officials like "negotiate" and "meet half way" and "win-win"? Seems we're are always looking for a fight, and that someone has to win or lose. I'm right, you're wrong. Can't we evolve beyond this childish behavior?

    January 3, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  6. Dave

    The international party of hypocrisy, who said "deficits don't matter" when they had power, should be banned from any "debate" on our national debt.

    January 3, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  7. GOP_r_thugs

    GOP House Representatives are dead weights. Let's oust them in 2014 & 2016.

    January 3, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  8. Howard

    It's really tiresome, the way Republicans love to use code words to avoid alerting the public of their true goals. "Cutting spending" is a euphemism for "gutting or eliminating popular government programs."

    There's nothing wrong with trying to rein in the debt, but if all politicians spoke plainly about how they want to do that, the public might just reset their own thinking about taxes and expectations. Here's one indisputable fact: cutting government spending instead of raising taxes always hurts the middle class far more than the wealthy. In fact, cutting government spending only hurts the wealthy to the extent that it means less government dollars flowing into companies in which the wealthy are invested.

    January 3, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  9. realist512

    Well this is a really great way to start a serious negotiation. He should at least try to take the high road instead of calling it a battle. We have some very childish folks in Washington!

    January 3, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  10. Eric

    I prefer to have a debate about cancelling foreign aid.

    January 3, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  11. LesC

    Debt ceiling debate? You would think that republicans would have learned something from the two times they have tried to hold the country hostage over the debt ceiling. The first time they shut the government down in 1995-96, the republicans lost 8 seats in the House and Bill Clinton was reelected. In 2011, they caused the countries credit rating to be down graded for the first time in our history and in 2012 they lost 11 seats in the House and President Obama was reelected. Both times the republicans took big political hits and now they are forming a circular firing squad again and think the President should play Russian roulette with them. The President is saying he is not going to go there again. Good for you, Mr. President! It is the responsibility of congress to pay the nations bills and it is beyond congressional authority to not pay them (Perry vs United States 1935). If the republicans in congress want to play politics with the debt ceiling, the President would then be required by law (14th Amendment, Section 4) to make sure that does not happen. He can instruct the US Treasury to continue paying the bills. It would take a joint resolution by both houses of congress to challenge the Presidents instruction in court. With the political divide between the House and Senate, that will not happen. In light of the down grade in the nation’s credit as a result of the 2011 debate, the President arguable, has a stronger hand to play if he wants to act preemptively to head off a default. So if the republicans want to play a politically suicidal hand they cannot win, why should the President stop them?

    January 3, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  12. Sioux Falls Momma

    Was watching the news this morning and the subtitle read "Democrats looking for new sources of revenue." Then I thought about Republicans and how their focus is on cutting spending. While I think both parties seek to do this, it dawned on me that these two differing views of their roles in fixing the deficit are actually set up perfectly to work in harmony with one another. Divide and conquer so to speak. I challenge Congress and all Americans to look at the coming year in a new way: as partners, who could split this multi-faceted problem into chunks, look at everything under a microscope, and then bring it all to the table, bit by bit until an entirely new picture emerges. Just putting a positive spin on this would go a long way. So I'll hope for the best for all sides and pray for a balanced and creative compromise. It's not a battle, but a journey..

    January 3, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  13. TeddyX

    Pretty sad when a not so smart Senator from Kentucky says he is against paying bill's that have already been incurred. Sure, cutting future spending is needed but bills that have already been incurred should be paid. If we, as Americans, didnt pay our bills at home people would call us deadbeats. now Republicans are against. Also, the HOUSE, which is the body that allocates and approves spending is the one to blame, NOT the President. The house approves or disapproves all spending. So when they say a tax and spend President, remember the only body that can tax and spend is the house

    January 3, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  14. ghhshirley

    I refuse to allow the losing party to frame where cuts must be made. Not surprisingly, the only thing McConnell mentions is health care costs. Yes, health care costs are rising out of control but that is due to the for-profit factor. Republicans have long wanted to do dismantle Medicare (and Social Security) to turn it over to their Wall St buddies. However, neither contribute nor caused the deficit.

    One of the first things that needs to be done is to rectify Medicare Part D's drug costs. When Republicans originally came up with Medicare Part D, they forgot to fund it (along with the two wars.) Right now, Big Pharma can charge whatever they please and Medicare pays it. So one piece of legislation that needs to happen is to allow Medicare to
    negotiate with Big Pharma for prices. For Medicare Part A, means testing, so that the wealthy shoulder a greater portion of the healthcare costs, can come in to play. Raising the Medicare age will accomplish nothing as younger seniors are generally healthier, yet would be very harmful to those who are not. The provision of outcome based payments rather than per hospitalization or per test would go a long way to reducing costs.

    Regarding health care costs in general, we should seriously consider going the single-payer route for all, which every other advanced nation has done. No other country on earth pays as much as we do for the exact same surgeries, hospitalizations or treatments. Despite what some may want to believe, these countries have better medical outcomes than we do. American no longer has the best medical care in the world. Last I checked, we ranked somewhere around 17th.

    Another issue to tackle is Social Security. The best way to keep it solvent is to get rid of the Income Contribution cap, yet keep the cap on pay outs.

    There is no need to go into great detail on the next two items. Suffice it to sum it up in few words:
    End Corporate Welfare.
    End the War on Drugs.

    Close at least 50 overseas bases that have been around since WW2 and have longed outlived their usefulness other than to support the foreign economy in which they are situated. That is just for starters. We spend more on defense than any other nation in the world...combined. We simply cannot afford to continue to do be the policemen of the world.

    More than cuts, however, we still need to focus on the issue of bringing jobs back to America, raising the minimum wage, investing in education and infrastructure so we can once again become an economic global leader. The growing income disparity in our nation is one of the biggest threats to a full economic recovery. Never forget for a minute that a strong middle class is the engine of our economy.

    January 3, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  15. hih

    cant wait to watch another re run of the last four years

    January 3, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  16. RichardW

    Yeah, sure... Let's get all geared up for the next political fight. McConnell and the other idiots who make up the GOP oughta have their heads examined if they think that the people are gonna stand by and watch more infighting in Congress. We Are Sick Of It !!!! Boehner can't even get a simple "disaster aid" package passed... What a bunch of LOSERS !!

    January 3, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  17. jdun

    Mitch, If you hadn't spent the past two years trying to destroy Obama instead of working with him the debt crisis would be bend us. Now, you are in a weaker position to call the shots ( I hope the filibuster rule goes back to what it was in the 60's), so, play nice, work for the good of the country and fix the long term debt problem.

    January 3, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  18. lance corporal

    how about we go after some of the money from bush's unfunded wars????? you can't tell me haliburton, black ops, etc didn't ILLEGALLY cash in???? c'mon, the "lost" billions??????

    January 3, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  19. David

    I will be glad when this buffoon gets unseated by Ashley Judd in the mid-term election.

    January 3, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  20. Switters

    The GOP will be arguing for cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and to not cut one dollar from the military.

    January 3, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  21. nc_mike

    Leave it totally upto the House to decide if they'll pay their bills or default – no negotiation, period. There should not be a debt limit; that is tantamount to getting a credit card, spending on it, then refusing to pay the bill when you get it.

    January 3, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  22. ron

    Can't help noticing that quite a few Democrats voted against the tax bill, but an even greater number of Republicans voted for it. McConnell is just another Republican living in a fantasy world. Just like they keep conveniently forgeting that George Bush, who "was supported by virtually every Republican", spent around 3.7 trillion on two useless wars, wasted the surplus we did have, and engineered the bailout and signed it into law BEFORE Obama even came into his first term. No money spent there, of course. Nor of course should military budgets be more modest now that both wasteful wars are winding down. But you want to tax the uber rich, and cut social programs, (& literally everyone has family that needs some kind of social assistance), and boy oh boy those spendthrift Dems have to be brought under control.
    By the way, I love the smug and callous comments about social assistance! It's all about those freeloaders, until you lose your job, to outsourcing, or the economy, or a natural disaster, etc... Then the same big mouths you see on these blogs, are right there in line, help ME, HELP ME! Were does that smugness go when adversity suddenly strikes your little world?

    January 3, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  23. independant jim

    McConnell will have his fight ..he voted for the bills we all must pay .. now he doesnt want to pay for the things he voted for .. lets hope the president and Democrats in congress rub his nose in it and let his party of no sink the American ship

    January 3, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  24. newengland2

    Now, it's time to cut spending, from defense, medicare to RED states government subsidies. They are all taking more in than giving.

    January 3, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  25. frank

    Why must this man insist at is going into battle with the President? Whatever happened to the metaphor of working together to solve our nation's problems?

    January 3, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
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