By Mike Lillis - 01/06/13 03:33 PM EST
A leading Democrat warned Sunday that Congress will come to a standstill if Republicans insist on more spending cuts without new tax revenue.
"If [Republicans] … draw that line in the sand, it's going to be a recipe for more gridlock," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee, told "Fox News Sunday." "We have to take a balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction. … As we go forward we need to adopt the same framework as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission, meaning a combination of cuts, of revenue.
The comments came in response to remarks by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said Sunday that Republicans won't entertain the notion of new taxes as Congress debates a strategy for reducing deficits.
"The tax issue is finished, over, completed. That's behind us," McConnell said on an interview with ABC's "This Week" program. "Now the question is: what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future? And that's our spending addiction."
Although lawmakers were able to reach an 11th-hour agreement on the “fiscal-cliff” last week, they still face three enormous budget deadlines – the debt ceiling, the sequester, and government funding – in the early stages of the 113th Congress.
Behind President Obama, Democrats are insisting that new tax revenues be a part of the congressional effort to rein in deficit spending. But McConnell's comments are a clear warning that Republicans – who were just forced to swallow a tax increase for families earning more than $450,000 as part of the fiscal-cliff deal – have other ideas. And conservatives on Capitol Hill were quick to throw their weight behind McConnell.
"Mitch McConnell's exactly right," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told "Fox News Sunday." "They [Democrats] just got revenue; we've got to cut spending. … Let's focus on the problem, which is this government can't control spending."
In a feisty conversation, Jordan and Van Hollen argued over the nature of the recent fiscal-cliff deal and the 2011 debt-ceiling law as they pertain to spending cuts. Van Hollen noted that those agreements included hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts; Jordan countered that most of those cuts don't take effect for years.
"The cuts that Chris referenced are cuts that have yet to happen. They're all scheduled for the out years. And as Congress typically does, they say, 'Oh, give us the revenue now, and we promise – we promise – we'll get the cuts later,'" Jordan said.
Van Hollen noted that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had pushed to close tax loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy.
"Guess what? They're still there," Van Hollen said of the loopholes. "So through tax reform we can raise new revenue matched by additional cuts to address the sequester issue and the long-term deficit."
The most pressing fiscal issue appears to be the debt-ceiling hike, as the Treasury Department warned last week that Congress must act within two months or the country will default on its obligations. Some Republicans have vowed to allow the default to happen if Democrats don't agree to significant spending cuts to accompany the debt-limit increase.
Asked if he was in that camp, Jordan on Sunday ducked the question.
"What I won't support is not dealing with the problem," he said. "This is Lucy [and] Charlie Brown [and] the football."
Van Hollen said the threats to allow a government default constitute "the madman theory to negotiations."
"That's reckless and irresponsible and we're not going to do it," Van Hollen said.
As if to foreshadow the intensity of the looming partisan showdown, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said later on the program that Republicans should not compromise on their anti-tax position.
"I don't think what Washington needs is more compromise," Cruz said.