Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday reiterated their opposition to tax increases in a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), in his first public comments since his meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday, said the Democrats’ insistence on raising taxes was holding up progress on a deal.
“The path forward… seems to be blocked by an insistence on raising taxes in the middle of an economic slowdown,” McConnell told reporters, pointing out that Democrats, including Obama, has argued against raising taxes during the lame-duck session in December, when efforts to increase tax rates failed despite Democratic majorities in both chambers. “Most of us believe the economy is not any better today than it was in December,” he added. “We think it’s a job-killing step that shouldn’t be taken and Republicans are not interested in going that way.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned Senate Democrats, specifically those facing difficult reelection fights in 2012, that they could fall victim to a “referendum on [Obama’s] failure to reach a grand bargain” if the White House does not drop its demand for nearly $600 billion in tax increases.
“Obviously if it’s possible to deal with the spending problem and the entitlement reforms, that’s our first choice,” Cornyn said. “But if the President and his party refuse to do the right thing, then in the Senate they’re going to be required to vote to raise the debt limit and we’ll have a referendum in 2012 on that decision. I don’t think if I were a senator on the other side of the aisle I would view that prospect with a lot of pleasure.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said Republicans were living in a “fantasy world” and accused them of wanting to force the country to default in order to fulfill their long-held dream of denying Social Security checks to seniors (or something like that). “Republicans don’t seem to care about the consequences for middle-class Americans,” he said.