Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed Sunday with Speaker John Boehner’s stance that a sweeping $4 trillion deal between Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama to cut the deficit over the next 10 years is likely dead.
Saturday night, less than 24 hours before a scheduled meeting at the White House, Boehner (R-Ohio) suddenly walked away from the largest savings deal under discussion. The negotiators are hashing out deficit reductions to accompany a vote to raise the nation’s debt limit before Aug. 2, when the Treasury has said the nation will begin to default on its loans. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but especially Republicans, have said the government needs to cut at least as much spending as it would take to raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 elections, or more than $2 trillion.
It’s clear that McConnell not only supports Boehner’s decision but also believes he and Boehner face similar difficulties in persuading GOP Members in their chambers to clear such a deal, which likely would have included revenue raisers Republicans have long rejected.
“I think it is because everything they’ve told me and the Speaker is that to get a big package would require big tax increases,” McConnell told “Fox News Sunday” when asked whether a $4 trillion deal is off the table. “We have 9.2 percent unemployment, and their prescription is to raise taxes? The president didn’t think that was a good idea in December, and they think it’s a good idea now?
“I’m for the biggest deal possible, too, but we’re not going to raise taxes in the middle of a recession,” McConnell added.
The Kentucky Republican’s response to perhaps the most important question he was asked underscored his party’s core beliefs, its bargaining position heading into Sunday night’s meeting and past successful negotiations McConnell has had with Obama. In December 2010, the Republican leader cut a deal with the president to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts through the next election.
McConnell used Friday’s disappointing unemployment numbers, Obama’s stances on taxes in December and the president’s willingness to discuss entitlement reform — even at the displeasure of Congressional Democrats — to argue that Republicans should continue to fight for smaller government.
He called for a freeze in government growth “in perpetuity,” adding, “I don’t think the American people want it, and it’s not good for the economy.”
Democrats were quick to attack Boehner’s retreat Saturday as an indictment of the tea party wing of the Republican Party and an unwillingness to do what is necessary to meet the president at least part of the way. It was reported that the $4 trillion deal would have included close to $3 trillion in cuts to government spending and programs and $1 trillion in tax reform, such as the closing of loopholes and subsidies, as well as other revenue raisers, such as the sale of government land. Democrats said Boehner’s decision to walk away from such a deal demonstrated that his Members were unwilling to meet Democrats even partway.
“The President has called the Republicans’ bluff by offering them exactly the type of grand bargain they said they wanted, only to have it rejected,” Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said in a statement. “Speaker Boehner had shown in the last week that, if it were up to him alone to decide, the nation would not be risking default to protect the wealthiest two percent of Americans. But in the end, neither the olive branch extended by the President nor the pragmatic streak shown by Speaker Boehner was enough to overcome the far right’s obsession with defending tax breaks for millionaires and other special-interest tax loopholes.”
Some Democrats even suggested that Republicans are afraid to give the president a bipartisan victory, but McConnell scoffed at such a notion, even though he has repeatedly stated that his goal is to get Obama out of office.
“That’s my single most important political goal — along with every active Republican in the country — but that’s for 2012,” McConnell said. “Our biggest goal for this year is to get our country straightened out.”