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McConnell Looks to Wrap Up Budget Talks, Plans Balanced Budget Vote

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On the cusp of potentially pivotal budget talks Monday between the president and Congressional leaders, Members expressed some optimism Sunday that they could avoid a fiscal crisis but still clung to their partisan talking points and seemed determined to press their priorities.

“One of the reasons we are meeting tomorrow is that I think both the Democrats and the Republicans would like to come together and finish this negotiation and finish it sometime soon,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It need not necessarily go to the eleventh hour.”

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling no later than Aug. 2 to avoid default on the nation’s debts, but Republicans have balked and say the federal government first needs to get its spending under control.

To that end, the Senate will vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution the week of July 18, McConnell said Sunday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced last week that his chamber would also take up such an amendment the week of July 25.

Passing the amendment “would be an important step in the right direction particularly looking out to the future,” McConnell said. “It would not eliminate the challenge that we have before us, which is to cut spending now, and that’s what these negotiations in connection with the request of the president, who has asked us to raise the debt ceiling, are about.”

McConnell is scheduled to meet with Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House on Monday evening to discuss reducing the deficit as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will meet separately with the president and vice president Monday morning.

McConnell reiterated his hard line against Democrats’ demands that revenues play a role in the final deal. “Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is simply not going to produce a desirable result, and it won’t pass,” he said.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers had been negotiating a deal with Biden until late last week, when Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) left the table.

Revenue raisers, including ending tax breaks for such interests as oil companies, were the top sticking point. Republicans say they don’t favor any tax increases given the shaky economy.

Kyl indicated Sunday that he thinks Obama will ultimately agree to spending cuts without revenue raisers. “The key here is to get economic growth going again. We need to put people back to work,” the Arizona Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If you want to kill the economy, raise taxes.”

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