McCaskill feels ‘sorry’ for Boehner’s hand in deficit negotiations

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Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) said on Sunday that she feels "sorry" for Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) hand going into talks on the “fiscal cliff.”

McCaskill (D-Mo.) told "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory that she believes the Republican House leader is in a difficult position as he works towards a deal with President Obama that he can sell to his caucus.

The Missouri senator said she feels "almost sorry for John Boehner, there is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this and he's got to decide: is his Speakership more important or is the country more important." 

McCaskill said Republicans were wedded to not raising taxes on even the wealthiest Americans, as the clock ticks down to January 1st, when automatic tax hikes and large spending cuts are set to take place if Washington fails to agree on an alternate deficit-reduction plan.

Her fellow Senate colleague, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) disagreed with McCaskill's assessment, pointing a finger at the White House for not broaching the "painful" topic of cutting spending through entitlement reform. 

"I'd say that Speaker Boehner's biggest problem is not his base, it's having a willing partner on the other side that's really willing to look at these kinds of reforms and I think that's going to happen. I think there's a possibility anyway,” said Corker, also on NBC.

“I think the Speaker is frustrated right now because the White House keeps spiking the ball on tax increases for the wealthy but has not yet been forthcoming on real entitlement reform and without the two, there really is no deal," he added. 

Both Senators said they have been talking to find out if common ground can be reached on the looming economic crisis facing the country. 

McCaskill agreed that her party has a tough time broaching entitlement reform - or changes in the mandatory spending for programs such as Medicare and Social Security. 

"I think it is certainly a fight and we have to be careful. We can get to means testing fairly easy, more aggressive means testing, some higher co-pays for those people who can afford it," McCaskill said. 

She added that politicians "have to stop playing to the cheap seats in politics and frankly that's what we're waiting on now is a game of chicken to put the painful stuff out there.” 

“The president has put $600 billion in cuts out there, he has said the tax increases for the top two percent, now it's time for us all - maybe together - hold hands and say 'let's look at some of the things we've got to do structurally," she added.