McConnell lays groundwork for debt ceiling battle

Updated
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday refused to say whether Republicans intended on a rehash of the debt ceiling showdown, but indicated GOP’s willingness to “use whatever leverage” they had in order to secure spending cuts from President Obama.

“Hopefully we don’t need to get to that point,” McConnell told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday. And though during the debt ceiling clash in 2011, McConnell behind closed doors said the threat of default was “a hostage worth ransoming,” he ducked repeated questions Sunday on whether or not a government default was a hostage situation was once again worth taking up.

“It’s a shame that we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem confronting our future, and that’s our excessive spending,” McConnell told host David Gregory on Meet the Press.

Lawmakers have just months until they must hash out a plan to replace the $1 trillion in cuts under the sequester and debate over raising the debt ceiling before later working out a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. Republicans are already threatening that a partial government shutdown might be necessary to leverage the president into agreeing upon higher spending cuts. The last time around on the showdown over raising the debt ceiling, the U.S. only narrowly averted defaulting on its financial obligations, causing the government’s Standard & Poor’s credit rating to go down from AAA to AA-plus.

President Obama this week showed an unwillingness to negotiate with the Republicans’ debt limit ransom for the unresolved portion of the fiscal cliff and warned of the international impacts of yet another showdown.

“One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up,” Obama said in his weekly address. “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.”

McConnell denied that the 11th hour fiscal cliff deal patched together by Obama and Congress this week included any tax hikes, saying that future negotiations in shoring up additional tax revenue were off the table.

“The tax issue is finished, over, completed. That’s behind us,” he said. “The president got $1 trillion less in revenue than he wanted. That means that money stays in the pockets of the American people.”

But on Face the Nation Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that the battle over tax revenue was not over for Democrats, and that the revenue in the first deal was “not enough.”

“The president had originally said he wanted $1.6 trillion in revenue,” she said.” “He took it down to 1.2 as a compromise in this legislation. We get $620 billion dollars, very significant, high-end tax, changing the high-end tax rate to 39.%, but that is not enough on the revenue side.”

McConnell lays groundwork for debt ceiling battle

Updated