GOP leaders to president: Don't pitch us on new spending

Republican leaders signaled Sunday that they won't go for President Obama's expected call for more federal spending in infrastructure, education and innovation initiatives in his State of the Union address.

Cantor questioned reports that Obama will seek new “investments” in his State of the Union address, saying the public had had enough of government spending to boost the economy.

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“The investment needs to be in the private sector,” Cantor said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“What the people have said is, ‘Enough, we’ve got to shrink government and cut spending,’” Cantor said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Obama should not focus on new spending in his address because it's time to get serious about tackling budget deficits.

“The American public as one pundit put has issued a massive restraining order,” he said on "Fox News Sunday" of the November Republican electoral sweep. “This is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas.”

He said that while Republicans will look at Obama's “investment” proposals, his approach will be that nothing should be off the table in terms of spending cuts.

Cantor reiterated the “cut and grow” mantra of the new Republican House majority, but he refused several times to list specific programs the GOP would seek to cut or eliminate. He did note that Republicans would vote this week to end public financing for the presidential elections. Cantor said Republicans remained committed to cutting overall domestic discretionary spending by $100 billion “on an annualized basis.”

Pressed by host David Gregory, Cantor also avoided specifics in how the GOP would reform Social Security to extend its long-term solvency.

Cantor said the House GOP would have “three bites at the apple” to insist on serious spending cuts: a vote to increase the debt limit, a vote to keep the government running past March 4, and the annual budget.

In a message to supporters on Saturday, Obama indicated that Tuesday's State of the Union address, while discussing ways to tackle the national debt, will also feature new proposals for infrastructure, education and research grant spending.

McConnell praised the president for “pivoting” at least rhetorically to the center, and said he hopes Obama will follow up his words with pro-business policies.

“He has quit bashing business and is now celebrating business and it is about time,” he said.

“He ran as a moderate, I'd like for him to govern as a moderate,” he said. “If he is willing to do it I think he will find some help among Republicans.”

McConnell said he hope Obama proposes lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate to spur job creation. Obama has given signals he supports lowering the rate while at the same time eliminating thousands of tax breaks that make the U.S. tax code overly complex.

He also said Obama should announce he is submitting the stalled Colombia and Panama free trade agreements to Congress along with the recently renegotiated South Korea deal.

“It is kind of a trust but verify moment,” he said of the State of the Union address.


Asked about how deep spending cuts should go, McConnell refused to endorse a new Republican Study Committee plan to cut $2.5 trillion over 10 years.

“There are a lot of different ideas, as we work our way through the annual process,” he said.“We will try to reduce domestic discretionary as much as we can in a way that will get a signature by the president.”

He added that he wants Congress to look at entitlement programs in a bipartisan way.

McConnell said that both the expiration of the March 4 continuing resolution funding the government and the reaching of the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling should be opportunities to reduce spending.

He declined to say whether he is willing to shutdown the government or default on the debt to get such reductions, however.

“Nobody is going to put a gun to anybody's head here,” he said. “The only one talking about shutting down the government is in your question.”

He said “mobody is talking about that “ when asked if Republicans would simply not raise the debt ceiling and cause a defaul.

“What we are talking about is using that as an opportunity,” he said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), speaking Fox, said it is important that Congress does not hit the “deficit brakes” too soon and imperil the recovery.

On CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Obama needs to "focus like a laser on the middle class" in his address.

"The president is going to talk about not cutting back investment that will help us grow in the future," he said.

This story has been updated from 9:44 a.m.