Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made clear his ambition to limit President Barack Obama to one term, contended Sunday that the two will find some areas to work on together.
“The notion that we’re at each other’s throats all the time is simply not correct,” McConnell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I’ve had two conversations with him this week about the way forward. We anticipate being able to do the people’s business in those areas where we agree.”
But the future of the health care overhaul did not seem to be up for negotiation. McConnell plans to try to put a full repeal on Obama’s desk, even though the president has vowed a veto, saying, “We owe it to the American people to do that.
“If that fails, then we’re willing to look at all of the various pieces of this as they become effective and how we might impact trying to carry out our commitment to the American people to keep this awful 2,700-page monstrosity that took over one-sixth of our economy from going into effect,” he said, adding that Republicans are looking in particular for ways to defund portions of the bill.
There did appear to be room for compromise on another contentious matter, the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. “I do sense some flexibility on the president’s part, and we’re happy to talk to him about it,” McConnell said.
Obama indicated for the first time last week that he would be open to negotiating a temporary extension for higher incomes in order to seal a deal on a permanent extension for incomes of up to $250,000 for couples ($200,000 for individuals). McConnell said Sunday that Republicans still seek a permanent, across-the-board extension. But, he said, “we’re willing to start talking about getting an extension of some kind so that taxes don’t go up on anybody.”
McConnell brushed off concerns about the estimated $700 billion cost of extending the tax cuts for higher income levels. “It only costs $700 billion if you consider it the government’s money. This is our money,” he said.
He added: “We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. So the whole nomenclature surrounding this that somehow we’re doing people a favor by giving them their own money back, I just don’t accept. The government is too big. It needs to be shrunk.”
McConnell criticized a GOP movement to ban earmarks. House Republicans already have a ban in place and are considering extending it to the next Congress, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has advocated that the Senate adopt a moratorium as well.
“I’d be willing to consider” a ban on earmarks for both parties, McConnell said. “The problem is it doesn’t save any money. It’s an argument about discretion. What we really need to do ... is to concentrate on reducing spending and reducing debt. And this debate doesn’t save any money, which is why it’s kind of exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending and get the federal government’s discretionary accounts under control.”