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Roll Call

Cornyn: Short-Term Debt Deal Not Perfect but Possible

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National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn was open Sunday to a short-term deal to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit, while saying it wouldn’t be the ideal way to break the impasse on the issues.

“The problem with a mini-deal is we have a maxi-problem,” the Texas Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And the big problems aren’t going to go away if you cut a mini-deal. All it does is delay the moment of truth, so I’d think better now than then [to come to a long-term agreement], but if we can’t, then we’ll take the savings we can get now and we will relitigate this as we get closer to the election.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) dismissed the possibility of a short-term deal on June 21, only to withdraw from negotiations led by Vice President Joseph Biden two days later. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) also withdrew, leaving no Republicans at the table and pushing the negotiations up the ladder to President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on June 19 that he would be open to moving “a very short-term” bill if it would provide enough time for negotiators to complete a long-term deal.

The major sticking point among Democratic and Republican negotiators has been the issue of revenue. Democrats insist on closing tax loopholes and other revenue raisers as part of a deal, with Republicans flatly opposed. Cornyn, however, regarded reform as an area for potential bipartisan cooperation but added that the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the debt ceiling made it an unrealistic goal in the current negotiations.

“I think it’s clear that Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes, particularly during a fragile economic recovery. ... Now, do we believe that tax reform is necessary? I would say absolutely,” he said Sunday. “There’s not enough time to get this done between now and Aug. 2, but it ought to be the first thing we turn to to try to make our tax code more rational. We can bring down rates, eliminate a lot of tax expenditures or loopholes and actually make our nation more competitive internationally.”

With just a month to go until Aug. 2, Cornyn accused Obama of waiting to push through an unexamined deal at the last moment.

“We’re running up against this deadline, and they’re going to try to present it as a fait accompli,” he said. “Nobody’s going to have time to read it or consider the implications of it, and he’s going to say you have to pass it or the economy’s going down the tubes. That’s just irresponsible.”

Cornyn also shot down recent buzz surrounding the notion that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution could make a statutory increase to the debt ceiling unnecessary. Section 4 states, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned,” and Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said the theory was worth exploring.

“That’s crazy talk,” Cornyn said Sunday. “It’s not acceptable for Congress and the president not to do their job and to say somehow that the president has the authority to then basically do this by himself. We ought to sit down and work together, and it shouldn’t take the form of press conferences like the president gave last week, where he was essentially the school marm scolding Congress for not getting its job done when in fact he’s the one who has not stepped up and given us a proposal.

“We’d like to see what his proposal is, and let’s do it in the light of day, not in secret behind closed-door negotiations only to spring it on the American people at the last moment and say, ‘You know what, it’s this, take it or leave it, or else there’s financial calamity,’” he added.

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