By Erik Wasson
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaking on Fox News Sunday denied his party is trying to sink the economy through big spending cuts in order to ensure President Obama is a one-term president.
“That is my most single important political goal along with every active Republican in the country,” McConnell said. “That is in 2012...our biggest goal for this year is to get this country straightened out.”
His comments come hours after the GOP walked away from the grand deficit bargain that the White House insists must include tax increase in order to soften the spending cuts. Obama and congressional leaders including McConnell will meet Sunday night to work on what is likely a smaller deficit reduction package in exchange for a raising of the debt limit by Aug. 2.
Democratic aides have been emailing reporters to highlight comments by Republicans to the effect that the sour economy, and the dismal 9.2 percent unemployment rate, offer a great opportunity to oust Obama.
McConnell said that the GOP still wants a grand deficit bargain but cannot back tax increases because unemployment is so high.
He noted that Obama backed extending the Bush era tax rates for two years in December due to the struggling economy. Those rates should remain in place because the economy is not recovering quickly.
“All the arguments the president used in December still work today,” he said. “We have 9.2 percent unemployment...you do not get the economy going by having a big tax increase.”
He said the tax issue is also about limiting the size and scope of a government that over-regulates.
McConnell commended the president for putting Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table
“He is correct to do that,” McConnell said.
He said entitlement reforms are needed for the deal in part because they cannot be easily reversed by future Congresses.
McConnell refused to talk about his positions on specific revenue raisers in a smaller $2 trillion cuts package the GOP is now seeking, although he highlighted that revenue can come from increased economic growth.
Asked about statements by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and other Republicans who say they want no debt ceiling increase at all, McConnell was dismissive.
“Nobody is talking about not raising the debt ceiling,” he insisted.
McConnell was asked what would happen if leaders cannot agree on a deal and he said he has a secret "contigency" plan to deal with it that he will announce at some point.