McConnell: Obama needs to be 'more bold' in tackling the debt

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called on President Obama to “be more bold” in tackling the national debt.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, McConnell discussed the impending budget battles that face the White House and a GOP that controls the House and is strong in the Senate.

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The top-ranking GOP senator was disappointed that the president failed to outline his plan to deal with the long-term debt and deficit problem in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

McConnell pointed to a Washington Post editorial on Sunday morning that excoriated Obama for failing “to present a credible plan for long-term debt reduction.”

The Kentucky senator promised that Republicans would send an austere budget to the White House.

“Our annual deficit, completely out of control; we're going to send the president a lot less. We're going to allow him to sign on to a lot less spending than he recommended the other night and that he's likely to send us in the budget,” McConnell said before adding that Republicans would be willing to negotiate entitlement reform with the administration.

“We're happy to sit down and talk about entitlement reform with the president. We know Social Security is in trouble. It was just announced by CBO this week. We know Medicare is on an unsustained path; they took half a trillion dollars out of it to fund this healthcare program that they enacted. Look, we need to get serious about this,” McConnell said.

Over the next few weeks, Congress faces two major deadlines related to keeping the government running. Insiders fear that a government shutdown could ensue if those deadlines are not met.

With Republicans in the House insisting on returning to 2008 spending levels — before the bank bailout and economic stimulus plan — many in D.C. worry that a government shutdown could be in the near future.

Though Obama discussed freezing current spending levels for five years in his State of the Union address, Republicans say that solution isn’t stringent enough.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Sunday sounded the alarm about the possibility that Republicans would fail to negotiate such austere cuts with the Democratic administration before the March 4 deadline, prompting a government shutdown.

“But to just stay in your corner and say, 'It's my way or I'm shutting down the government,' that could lead to terrible, terrible problems. And I would plead with my new Republican colleagues in the House who seem to want to do this, that that is playing with fire. Please don't do it,” Schumer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

On three occasions, “Meet the Press” host David Gregory pressed McConnell on the issue of closing the door to a government shutdown.

McConnell responded with the same answer on all three attempts. “We have two opportunities coming up. We have the continuing resolution on March 4. And then the president has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. So we have two opportunities here to do something important for this country on the issue of spending and debt. We ought not to lose that opportunity.”

Schumer warned of the potential consequences that a government shutdown could have on a recovering U.S. economy.

“They are getting wary because of the large debt we have, which we have to get down, but if they feel that people are willing to shut down the government, you could risk the credit markets really losing some confidence in the United States Treasury, and that could create a deeper recession than we had over the last several years — God forbid, even a depression,” Schumer said.