WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday ruled out raising tax revenues on top of the tax hike on the wealthy in the “fiscal cliff” deal, and said the full focus must now be on spending cuts to curb U.S. deficits.
“The tax issue is finished, over, completed,” the Kentucky Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“That’s behind us. Now the question is what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future, and that’s our spending addiction.”
McConnell used the Sunday morning news shows to lay out his position in the upcoming fight over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and funding the government that is expected to come to a head in March, just three months after the struggle to avert the January 1 fiscal cliff of severe tax hikes and spending cuts that economists said could have brought a recession.
Republicans want big spending cuts in programs including Medicare healthcare for the elderly and the Social Security pension program as a condition for raising the U.S. borrowing limit. President Barack Obama has said he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, arguing that Congress must pay the bills for spending it approved.
McConnell said the White House should start working with Congress immediately to determine spending, before the March deadline to raise the federal borrowing limit brings another fiscal crisis.
“We could do things very quickly, these are not new issues,” he said on ABC.
Asked whether Republicans would threaten a U.S. default in their press for spending cuts, McConnell said, “It’s not even necessary to get to that point. Why aren’t we trying to settle the problem? Why aren’t we trying to do something about reducing spending?”
But Democrats said they will continue to push for more revenue as well as spending cuts to curb deficits.
“Well, if Mitch McConnell is going to draw the line in the sand, it’s going to be a recipe for more gridlock,” Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“As we go forward, we need to adopt the same framework as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission, meaning, a combination of cuts and revenue,” Van Hollen said, referring to the commission that presented a sweeping plan to cut deficits.
McConnell on Sunday also defended the deal he helped to broker with Vice President Joe Biden to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Most of his fellow Republicans in the House opposed the deal for being focused almost entirely on raising revenue through a tax increase on families making more than $450,000 a year, while postponing significant spending cuts.
“What we did was prevent tax increases on 99 percent of the American public. Nobody in the Senate, not the 90 percent of Senate Republicans who voted for this, voted to raise anybody’s taxes,” McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The deal extended lower tax rates for most taxpayers set during the George W. Bush administration that were set to expire on January 1, but let rates rise on the top incomes. (Reporting by Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler)