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Sen. McConnell: Boosting Debt Ceiling Requires Spending Cuts

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by other GOP senators, speaks to reporters. i i

hide captionSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by other GOP senators, speaks to reporters.

Charles Dharapak/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by other GOP senators, speaks to reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by other GOP senators, speaks to reporters.

Charles Dharapak/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said the forthcoming vote in Congress over whether to raise the debt limit presents a chance “for both sides to come together” and reach a solution, striking a conciliatory tone on what is likely will be a fierce battle.

McConnell, along with his lieutenants, addressed reporters following Senate Republicans’ annual policy meeting in which they lay out their agenda for the new session. No surprises here: cut spending, tackle the deficit, reform entitlements and repeal the health care law.

McConnell said he and House Speaker John  Boehner (R-Ohio) were contacted earlier Thursday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about the need to lift the debt ceiling when the measure comes up in the next couple of months. In the Senate GOP meeting, McConnell said, his members agreed that any increase of the debt ceiling must be tied to cuts in spending.

He said both parties should begin drafting legislation that would at once raise the debt threshold and cut the budget.

McConnell also reiterated Republicans’ insistence that President Obama include in his upcoming State of the Union address a plan to reform entitlements.

“Entitlement reform will only be done on a bipartisan basis,” McConnell said. “We’re waiting for signals from the president as to whether or not that’s a discussion he’s willing to have. If he is, that’s a discussion we’re willing to engage in.”

He said he hopes Obama also is open to tax reform. He said he interpreted the president’s meeting with corporate CEOs last month as a sign that Obama “seems to be open to reducing the corporate tax rate. …If he’s interested, then I think my members would be interested in talking about that.”

Where McConnell gave no ground is on the health care law, of course. If the House passes a repeal of the legislation, as expected, McConnell said Senate Republicans are prepared to fight to push it through the chamber—which isn’t likely. Moreover, Obama has vowed to use his veto pen.

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