President Obama will get a fight over government spending with a hike to the debt limit "whether he wants it or not," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote Thursday.
In an op-ed for Yahoo, McConnell wrote that Republicans would focus on reducing spending in the next Congress, and in conjunction with the debate over raising the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. Congress will likely need to take action on the debt limit within the next two months.
"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," McConnell warned.
Obama has warned that he will not tolerate another extended debate over the debt ceiling. The negotiations over increasing the debt ceiling in summer 2011 resulted in an extended standoff between Obama and Republicans, the threat of a government shutdown and a credit downgrade for the country.
“While I will negotiate over many things, 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,” Obama said Tuesday.
But McConnell made it clear that Republicans are gearing up for just such a debate.
"For the sake of our future, the president must show up to this debate early and convince his party to do something that neither he nor they have been willing to do until now," McConnell wrote. "Over the next two months they need to deliver the same kind of bipartisan resolution to the spending problem we have now achieved on revenue — before the eleventh hour."
In the op-ed, McConnell took on criticism from Republicans that the fiscal-cliff deal he negotiated did not include enough spending cuts and allowed taxes to rise on households with annual income above $450,000. He said the bill extended low tax rates for most people, and that inaction would have resulted in a massive tax hike.
"If I had my way, taxes would not have gone up on anyone, but the unavoidable fact was this — if we had sat back and done nothing, taxes would have gone up dramatically on every single American, and I simply couldn’t allow that to happen," McConnell wrote. "Yet now that the president has gotten his long-sought tax hike on the 'rich,' we can finally turn squarely toward the real problem, which is spending.
"The president likes to say that most Americans support tax hikes on the rich. What he conveniently leaves out is that even more Americans support cuts," McConnell said. "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."