Tags: mcconnel | reid | senate | debt

McConnell to Newsmax: Reid's Debt-Ceiling Proposal 'Unacceptable'

Friday, 11 Oct 2013 09:30 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called a Democratic plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling without addressing its trillions of dollars in debt "unacceptable" on Friday in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.

"We've got a $17 trillion debt now," the Kentucky Republican said. "We've got a debt that's as big as our economy, which makes us look a lot like a western European country.

"It’s unacceptable — and the American people oppose raising the debt ceiling unless we do something about the debt," McConnell added. "That's our continuing goal here in the Senate."

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McConnell slammed a plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to bring to a vote on Saturday legislation that would raise the nation's borrowing limit with no provisions on cutting America's debt.

"Senator Reid is going to try to raise the debt ceiling $1 trillion without doing anything about the debt," he told Newsmax. "I don’t think there will be a single Republican that supports that — and that'll be enough to defeat that particular approach."

The Reid effort is part of a Democratic proposal that would suspend the debt ceiling through Dec. 31, 2014, with no policy conditions. That would push the next debt-limit fight into 2015, past next year's congressional elections.

The nation's debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. Treasury Department can borrow to pay the expenses that Congress has already incurred, is $16.69 trillion. The nation's debt, the amount the federal government owes to creditors, is $16.7 trillion.

McConnell likened Reid's "clean" proposal to placing the United States on par with several heavily indebted countries in Europe. Among such nations are Germany, with $5.67 trillion in debt; Italy, whose debt exceeds $2.49 trillion; Spain, with $2.39 trillion in debt; and Greece, whose debt totals more than $546.92 billion.

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China holds the most U.S. debt, with about $1.28 trillion, The Washington Post reports.

"That, of course, isn't going to pass," McConnell said of the Reid proposal. "That'll be defeated overwhelmingly by Republicans."

He said that Senate Republicans and Democrats are in negotiations now on legislation that would reopen the federal government, which has been shut down for 11 days, and raise the debt ceiling.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is developing a proposal that would repeal a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that is used to fund Obamacare.

The tax took effect in January and expected to raise $29 million over the next decade to the help finance the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to Factcheck.org.

McConnell's comments to Newsmax came on a day also in which he was among a group of GOP senators that met at the White House with President Barack Obama as part of sessions with congressional leaders on trying to find a way to end the impasse that has led to the partial government shutdown.

The shutdown began on Oct. 1 and has idled 350,000 federal employees. It is expected to shave two-tenths of a percentage point from U.S. economic growth if it lasts through this week and as much as 0.5 percentage points if it continues two more weeks, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Meanwhile, President Obama on Friday rejected the latest proposal offered by House Speaker John Boehner that would link a short-term increase in the debt ceiling to further negotiations on the budget.

The president had met with Boehner and House Republicans on Thursday, and, while rejecting that key provision, said that he and Boehner had both agreed in a telephone conversation earlier Friday afternoon that "we should all keep talking," a Boehner spokesman said.

McConnell told Newsmax that the GOP senators met with Obama for about 90 minutes.

"It was cordial," he said. "He clearly was not interested in negotiating. The president isn't interested in negotiating — and he made the clear again today.

"The only negotiating that's going on is in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans in trying to get a solution," McConnell added. "My view of an acceptable solution is to get the government running again and not raise taxes and not increase spending."

The nation is not going to default on its credit obligations come next Thursday if the debt ceiling is not extended, the minority leader said.

"The U.S. has never defaulted in its history — and we have had, going back to the 1950s, important legislation passed in connection with raising the debt ceiling to do important things for our country.

"What would be extraordinary and inappropriate would be to raise the debt ceiling without doing anything about the debt," he said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the government will have $30 billion along with incoming revenue to pay its bills if the debt ceiling is not raised. It would, however, start missing scheduled payments — including benefits, salaries, and interest — between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31.

And while the federal shutdown should end immediately, "it should end on terms that include neither raising taxes nor increasing spending," McConnell said. "That's my hope and aspiration."

He also acknowledged the recent surveys showing that more Americans are blaming Republicans for the shutdown — making the bipartisan Senate talks all the more urgent.

"The American people are saying that they don't like the government being shut down, and they'd like for us to work together to get it back up and running," McConnell told Newsmax. "We're involved in serious and meaningful discussion in the Senate.

"We hope to be able to come up with a solution consistent with conservative principles."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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