McConnell: Obama must address debt for GOP support on raising debt limit

Senate Republicans will not support an increase to the federal debt limit unless the president vows to tackle the nation's debt, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (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.

"Republicans in the Senate will not be voting to raise the debt ceiling unless we do something significant about the debt," McConnell said. "I don't think he has to lay out in public exactly what he's willing to do, but we need to begin serious discussions, and time's a-wasting."

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 BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJim Jordan as Speaker is change America needs to move forward Paul Ryan’s political purgatory Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt MORE (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.