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McConnell Hits Sunday Shows to Talk Debt Ceiling Clash

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday foreshadowed the coming clash over the debt ceiling, making clear in a handful of television interviews that Republicans would demand significant spending cuts and oppose any tax increases as the price for their support to raise the federal borrowing limit.

“The tax issue is finished. Over. Completed,” Kentucky’s senior senator said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s behind us.”

In appearances on three different network public affairs television programs, McConnell suggested that President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders were intent on negotiating in good faith with Senate Republicans and the GOP House majority, saying that they “seem to like” the frantic nature of last-minute deals negotiated on the cusp of a legislative or other government deadline.

“It’s a shame we have to drag him to the table,” McConnell said of Obama, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Democrats countered that it’s the Republicans who have been intransigent, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said they expected additional tax increases to be on the table in negotiations over the debt ceiling beyond those included in the bipartisan agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“The president had said originally he wanted $1.6 trillion in revenue, he took it down to 1.2 as a compromise in this legislation,” Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We get $620 billion dollars, very significant, high-end tax, changing the high-end tax rate to 39.6 percent, but that is not enough on the revenue side.”

Meanwhile, McConnell and other top Republicans signaled that they are considering a move to block Obama’s expected nomination of Chuck Hagel to serve as his next secretary of defense.

On CNN, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Hagel, a Republican and former Nebraska senator, “out of the mainstream” on foreign policy, “controversial” and an “antagonistic figure.”

Graham, a leading GOP voice on foreign policy and national defense, said Hagel would be “an in-your-face” nomination by the president. However, South Carolina’s senior senator and other Republicans were reluctant to specifically threaten to filibuster his nomination.

“The hearings will matter. He can set some of this straight,” Graham said.

McConnell said he, too, would be closely monitoring the confirmation hearings.

“I’m going to wait and see how the hearings go,” he said.

Durbin said on CNN that Hagel would be a “serious” nominee and Obama would be wise to nominate him.

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