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Senate Leaders Remain at Odds Over Debt

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (center) said Majority Leader Harry Reid’s debt plan “is not a serious effort.”

McConnell said that Republicans oppose the Reid measure because it counts $1 trillion from the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as savings, something that was already scheduled to happen. Republicans also want a provision that would trigger automatic cuts or something else that would force the joint committee to act.

“We believe the Reid proposal is not a serious effort to reduce the deficit and debt and should be defeated,” McConnell said, adding that it includes “highly suspect spending cut features.”

McConnell did not answer when asked whether his Republicans would unite to vote against the Reid plan.

“We think the Reid proposal goes in the wrong direction, and hopefully sometime soon we’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate that,” he said.

McConnell also brushed aside an announcement from the Club for Growth that it opposes the Boehner plan and that it would be a key vote in the Club for Growth’s 2011 Congressional Scorecard.

Grover Norquist’s “Americans for Tax Reform, which has been kind of the gold standard on the tax issue, endorsed the Boehner proposal yesterday,” McConnell said. “We believe it has broad support. We are doing everything we can to help our friends in the House pass it, and I am optimistic that they will be able to do that.”

Not all Republicans share McConnell’s confidence, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) who came out against the Boehner plan Monday. On Tuesday, House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) said of the plan, “I am confident, as of this morning, that there were not 218 Republicans in support.”

Reid said that Boehner’s plan is “dead on arrival in the Senate.”

“It’s written for the tea party, not the American people; Democrats will not vote for it,” he added.

The Obama administration also issued a veto threat against the Boehner plan Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Reid seemed to indicate that discussions between Democrats and Republicans appear to be ongoing, which could yield a middle ground.

“There are further discussions going on now; I am open to compromise,” Reid said, but he added that he would not accept a short-term extension because it would not reassure financial markets.

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