McConnell says both sides 'very close' to deal for $3 trillion in spending cuts

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he has been in contact with the White House and expects to reach a deal that would cut federal spending by roughly $3 trillion before the deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

"Now I think I can pretty confidently say that this debt ceiling increase will avoid default," McConnell Sunday said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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McConnell declined to comment on the specifics of the deal but said it will likely include significant cuts to discretionary spending, caps on some spending for the next 10 years and no tax increases. He also promised a Senate vote on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

"What we're looking at is a $3 trillion package, a combination of discretionary cuts, both cuts now, caps over the next 10 years to hold spending in line," he said. "And then we're also going to be voting on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget."

"I think we're very close to being in a position where hopefully I can recommend to my members they take a serious look at it and support it," he added.

According to McConnell, triggers to ensure the promised spending cuts take effect have been the main issue of contention between the two parties for the past week.

"The trigger issue has been the one that has locked us in the extensive discussions," McConnell said.

McConnell didn't specify what form the enforcement mechanisms would take but said the deal will include the formation of a bipartisan joint committee of Congress empowered to make recommendations to reduce the debt.

Those recommendations would include entitlement reform and would be subject to an up or down vote in Congress before Thanksgiving. McConnell expressed confidence the joint committee would be able to craft a solution in the face of enormous pressure from the American public, the financial markets and foreign nations eyeing how the U.S. handles its debt crisis.

"We haven't had anything like this before," McConnell said.

"This is a joint committee of Congress. It is not a commission that consists of outsiders. A joint committee of Congress with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats under enormous pressure from the American people, from the markets, foreign countries looking at us to see if we're going to get our house in order to come up with significant additional savings over and above the initial ones that we will approve before the end of this year."

On the same program Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there had been no final agreement and that any talk of the deal's specifics is premature. But Schumer said the overwhelming mood on the Hill is relief that the leaders are talking constructively and making default unlikely.

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Schumer agreed that enforcement mechanisms remain the sticking point. He said any triggers must be strong enough to compel action from both parties if the joint committee fails to reach a compromise.

"An enforcement mechanism makes it very likely that the people in this bipartisan, bicameral committee come to an agreement. Because if they don't, the pain inflicted is so great that they have an incentive to come to an agreement," Schumer said.

"That means that there should be a sword of equal sharpness and strength hanging over each party's head. Obviously the sword over the head of Democrats is the cuts."

Schumer said Republicans should face equal pressure in the form of new taxes along with cuts to Defense spending. He added that it is vital the same debate doesn't take place in six months, which he said is a top priority for President Obama.

But on ABC News's "This Week," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) said he was "not ready to vote" for the plan being negotiated by McConnell, the White House and Senate Democrats.

"We're going in the wrong direction at a slower pace, and for a lot of people that's not winning," Graham said.

Graham also predicted that only half of House Republicans will support the deal.  "I don't see many conservatives getting behind this quite frankly," he said.

"I think half the conference in the Republican House must vote for this," Graham said. "I think that's the minimum because — I like John Boehner, maybe he can get more — but it's a $3 trillion package that will allow $7 trillion to be added to the debt in the next decade, so how much celebrating are you going to do?"

Still, on Fox News Sunday, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) voiced broader support for a potential deal.

"I have a much more positive feeling than I did 24 hours ago," Durbin said

“Republican principles will be significantly advanced by this agreement,” Kyl said.