McConnell: Obama needs to ‘become the adult,’ raise discussion on debt, deficit

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said House Speaker John Boehner was right to focus attention on a possible hike in the nation’s debt ceiling, saying it was a “perfect time” to address the nation’s fiscal health, but placing the burden for moving forward with President Obama.

“At some point here, this president needs to become the adult, because the Speaker and I have been the adults in the room, arguing that we need to do something about the nation’s most serious long-term problem,” said McConnell on CBS’s Face the Nation.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) restarted the debate over a possible debt-ceiling hike last week when he called for dollar-for-dollar cuts in exchange for any raise in the limit. Boehner said he feared that without early negotiations on a long-term fiscal plan, lawmakers post-election would only have a few weeks to avoid what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has called a “fiscal cliff” with looming cuts to spending and expiring Bush-era tax rates.

McConnell told host Bob Schieffer those issues required extensive discussion and that Boehner was right to press the issue. 

“What the Speaker was saying, I entirely agree with. If the president’s going to ask us to raise the debt ceiling and he will early next year. We do need to have another serious discussion about trying to do something significant about the deficit and debt,” he said.

“A request from the president to raise the debt ceiling is a serious matter,” McConnell added. “Because it underscores the way we have been engaged in deceit spending and borrowing particularly over the last three-and-a-half years. It is the perfect time, Bob, the perfect time to engage in a discussion to do something serious about the deficit and debt.” 

Asked if he wanted to begin talks on the issue of raising the debt-ceiling before the election, McConnell said the timing was in Obama’s hands. 

“Well, the timing will be determined by the president. They determine when a request to us to raise a debt ceiling. We assume that will happen at the end of this year, early next year,” he said. “Without presidential leadership, there’s, nothing can be accomplished.  We didn’t have presidential leadership last year, it’s pretty clear the president’s not going to lead on this anytime soon. Unless he engages, we don’t control the entire government. We control the House of Representatives only.”

McConnell also said Obama’s policies had only worsened the nation’s fiscal condition and that the president was trying to push those policies onto other nations at this weekend’s G8 summit

“We have a president who just this weekend at Camp David was advocating a position to the left of the European Central Bank which has been resisting doing an American style stimulus to solve their problems, yet the president is arguing that the Europeans should replicate policies that clearly haven’t worked here,” he said.

“We have a debt now bigger than our economy; that alone makes us look like Greece. We’ve had the lowest labor participation rate in 30 years; we’ve had 29 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. The country’s in a lot of trouble,” McConnell added.

Democratic leaders have criticized Boehner’s stance, saying the call for cuts would lead to a repeat of the brinksmanship over last year’s debt-ceiling negotiations. While lawmakers raised the limit in time to avoid a default, the nation’s credit rating received a downgrade.