The top Republican in the Senate said to get his vote to increase the debt ceiling, Congress is going to have to approve short, medium, and long term cuts to both discretionary spending and Medicare and Medicaid, while conceding that Democrats have effectively put changes to Social Security off the table.
Following a meeting of the entire Senate GOP conference with President Obama at the White House, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated that "in the context of the debt ceiling, we will not be considering tax increases," though he said, "I view this as a major opportunity for us to do something important for the country."
The leader refused to give specifics about what should be cut and side-stepped a question on whether or not future cuts would include Defense Department spending, the largest portion of the discretionary budget, but he repeatedly referred to the product of the president's fiscal commission (aka- Simpson-Bowles), which made major changes to both Medicare and Medicaid.
In the short term, McConnell said he wants to see Congress approve an overall top line number on spending for the next two years, in light of the fact that a divided Congress is not likely to produce a broader budget blueprint, and said would like to "continue to move that (top line number) downward."
McConnell said that though comprehensive tax reform needs to be accomplished soon by Congress, it will not be part of negotiations over raising the nation's credit limit.
Overall, the leader seemed upbeat about the chances for a grand bargain, saying, "Divided government...is the best time," adding, "When you do something big and difficult together, it's not useable. If there is a grand bargain, none of it useable for the next election. None of it."