Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell challenged President Obama’s claim to support trillions in serious spending cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling – cuts the president says show he’s ready to anger Democrats to get a deal.
In a sharply worded speech on the Senate floor today, McConnell labeled the Obama cuts a sham. “We all saw how it worked,” he said. “The administration leaked to the media, without any details, the idea that it was willing to go along with trillions in spending cuts.”
But the cuts are largely illusory, McConnell indicated. Obama hoped “the budget gimmicks and deferred decision-making they actually supported would have the appearance of serious belt-tightening.”
In truth, the effect would be “at most about a couple billion dollars in cuts up front with empty promises of more to follow.” McConnell called it “sleight of hand governing.” And Republicans “will not be party to something that claims to save trillions but leaves it to future generations to pick up the tabs and to future Congress to reverse it with a simple vote.”
Now, in the negotiations between Republicans and the White House, Obama “has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default,” McConnell said. “Republicans choose none of the above. I hoped to do good, but I refuse to do harm.”
Here’s the full text of McConnell’s speech:
“For more than two years now, Republicans in Washington have stood united in the belief that America would never recover from the economic crisis that struck our nation three years ago, so long as some in Washington persisted in the mistaken belief that government had the cure.
“For most clear-eyed observers, that view has found its clearest vindication in the daily drumbeat of news about lost jobs, shuttered businesses, and slumping home values; and in the stories that each of us hears from our constituents about the economic hardships that they continue to face.
“If anyone was still looking for proof that the President’s economic policies have been a failure, they don’t have to look any further than the morning papers or their constituent mail.
“Indeed, the more the administration insisted on spending and debt as the solution to our problems, the worse those problems became, and the more Americans demanded that the status quo in Washington had to change. But the administration was slow to get the message.
“After an election that any honest observer saw as a repudiation of its policies, the White House continued to cling to its playbook. As concerns about our debt and deficits grew, the President presented a budget so unequal to the task that not a single Democrat voted for it, not one. And as the nation inched closer to a potential default, the President focused his attention elsewhere.
“Meanwhile, Republicans were offering detailed solutions to the approaching crisis. We offered detailed budgets of our own. We offered to work out a compromise that lowered the debt and protected entitlements from bankruptcy. And here’s what we got in return: silence.
“And that’s where the debate over the debt limit came in. If Democrats would not agree on their own to do something about their addiction to spending and debt, then we’d refuse to enable it.
“If they wanted our votes to increase the debt limit, then they would have to do something to restrain the size and scope of government first.
“For awhile there, there weren’t many takers. Democrats from the President on down insisted that we simply raise the debt limit and endorse the status quo on spending without any reforms.
“That changed a couple months ago when the President agreed to delegate bipartisan debt reduction talks to the Vice President. Then, a couple weeks ago, the President broke his own silence on the debt ceiling debate and got personally involved himself.
“Incredibly, for those of us who had been calling for action on this issue day in and day out for about two years, the President tried to put the burden on us. With the nation edging closer to the debt limit deadline, the President retreated behind the poll-tested rhetoric of class warfare.
“At a moment when we needed leadership the most, we got the least. The financial security of the nation was being gambled on the President's wager that he could convince people our problems would be solved if we just all agreed to take it out on the guy in the fancy house down the street.
“In my view, that was the saddest commentary on the status of the leadership at the White House.