McConnell: Tax issue ‘finished,’ focus should turn to spending cuts

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said Republicans will demand steep spending cuts during the next round of budget negotiations.

McConnell, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” said President Obama had won all he’s going to get on taxes in last week’s agreement to extend the Bush-era tax rates for most taxpayers.

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“The tax issue is, finished, over, completed. That’s behind us now. The question is: what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting us and our future,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the next round of negotiations over a deal to raise the debt-ceiling would need to include Democratic concessions on spending.

President Obama in his weekly address Saturday warned Republicans that a protracted fight over the debt-limit could have disastrous effects on the economy and said he wanted the borrowing limit raised and issues on spending and entitlements resolved separately. 


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Republicans, though, believe the debt-limit debate gives them leverage to force Democrats to accept greater cuts and entitlement reform. Some conservatives have suggested allowing the U.S. to hit the debt ceiling if Obama refuses to concede on further budget cuts, but others fear failing to raise the ceiling would likely cripple the U.S. economy.

The Senate GOP leader, though, disclosed little about his negotiating strategy, declining to say whether he’s willing to let the U.S. hit its debt limit without further cuts. 

“It’s not even necessary to get to that point. Why aren’t we trying to settle the problem?” he said. “We don’t need to use the deadline. We could go through regular order.”

McConnell also punted on whether he would back a partial shutdown of the federal government in the spending battle, a threat his leadership colleague Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) made last week.

McConnell, though, said he expected lawmakers’ focus to be on spending and that other issues including gun control, will likely see no action for the first few months of the year.

“None of these issues are going to have the priority that spending and debt are going to have,” McConnell said. “That’s going to dominate the discussion in Congress for the next two or three months at least.”