Democrats, Republicans draw lines with taxes, debt ceiling

Democrats, Republicans draw lines with taxes, debt ceiling

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, made clear on Sunday that he would oppose any effort by the Obama administration to raise more tax revenue and that he remained focused on finding ways to cut spending as the government grapples with its debt.

“The tax issue is finished,” Mr. McConnell said on the ABC News program “This Week.” “Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”

Mr. McConnell’s interviews on three Sunday morning programs came just days after he and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. helped broker a resolution to the latest fiscal crisis and as Washington braced for a series of confrontations over debt and spending.

Mr. McConnell’s stance on taxes countered calls from Democrats, and even some House Republicans, to revamp the tax code to close some provisions and raise new revenue. But Mr. McConnell did say he would favor changes if they were “revenue neutral,” meaning that lower rates would be paid for by limiting deductions and closing loopholes.

Mr. McConnell’s focus on the need for spending cuts was relentless in his interviews on ABC, NBC and CBS. He was equally insistent that President Obama must take the lead on fiscal plans.

His remarks stood in contrast to comments from the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who said on the CNN program “State of the Union” that there was plenty of room to increase revenue by examining “deductions, credits, special treatments under the tax code.”

Mr. McConnell’s position also contrasted with remarks on Saturday by Mr. Obama, who said in his weekly address that he remained open to both spending cuts and further tax increases. The fiscal agreement last week made tax cuts permanent for most households and put off big spending cuts.

Mr. Obama, who was speaking from Hawaii before returning to Washington on Sunday, emphasized his own line in the sand. Now that the government has reached its statutory borrowing limit, Mr. Obama said, Congress had no choice but to raise it to avoid a damaging default. He said the matter was not up for negotiation.

“If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic,” Mr. Obama said. “Our families and our businesses cannot afford that dangerous game again.”

Mr. McConnell repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he supported Republican senators who have suggested that a default — and even a brief shutdown of the government — might be necessary to secure deep spending cuts.

“My answer is hopefully we don’t need to get to that point,” he said on ABC. “The president surely must know we’re spending way too much. So why don’t we do something about reducing spending?”

Mr. McConnell also suggested that other Obama administration priorities, including a new push for gun restrictions after the Connecticut school shooting, might have to wait.

Mr. McConnell was asked about reports that Mr. Biden, whom Mr. Obama charged with developing proposals to address gun violence, had confidently predicted the passage of gun-control legislation this month.

Mr. McConnell seemed to cast cold water on that notion.

“The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt,” he said. “That’s going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March. None of these issues, I think, will have the kind of priority that spending and debt will have.”

Source: The New York Times