By Peter Schroeder - 03/11/11 08:46 PM EST
Senate Republicans will not support an increase to the federal debt limit unless the president vows to tackle the nation's debt, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the Senate Republican leader made clear that the support of the 47 GOP senators will be contingent on major debt reduction talks, making his opening offer in what is expected to be another hot fiscal debate in Congress.
In particular, McConnell said the president needs to step up and do more to take on entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"There will be no entitlement reform without President Obama," he said. "It cannot be done without him, will not be done without him."
The Treasury Department has warned Congress that it must increase the debt ceiling before it is reached, or else lawmakers would be risking disastrous consequences for the national and global economy. According to its latest estimates, the Treasury expects to hit that limit sometime between April 15 and the end of May.
Republicans want to use the debt-limit vote as leverage to extract more spending cuts from Democrats and the administration, but at the same time party leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have acknowledged the limit must be raised before the U.S. defaults on its debts.
Tea Party pressure is complicating the debt-limit debate, as several of those groups are opposed to an increase, wanting instead to see drastic spending cuts.