WASHINGTON — Addressing the lack of a deal between the White House and congressional leaders to avert the fiscal cliff, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday President Barack Obama can get tax increases on the wealthy “by doing nothing,” while Republicans want the White House to support entitlement reform.
Taxes would rise for every American at the start of next year if the White House and Congress do not reach a deficit reduction agreement.
The Daily Caller asked McConnell for his response to those who argue that Congress does not have enough time to reform entitlements or the tax code before the end of the year.
“Well, I’ve said repeatedly — and I think most of my colleagues have said as well, I’ll say again — on the entitlement reforms that are needed to save Medicare and Social Security, we know what they are. Doesn’t require any more study. It just requires the courage to do it,” McConnell said at the Capitol.
“Tax reform obviously can’t be done between now and the end of the year. I believe we have a bipartisan view that after 25 years, it’s time for tax reform again, but that’s going to take a while. What the president’s trying to achieve on the top two tax rates, you know, he can get by doing nothing. I mean, the law is certainly stacked in his favor.”
House Speaker John Boehner has said the Republicans support raising revenue by reforming the tax code as opposed to raising tax rates.
However, Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi want the Republican-controlled House to vote on a Senate bill that would extend the current tax rates only for families making less than $250,000 per year, allowing the rates to rise for families earning above that amount.
The Senate Republican leadership said these tax increases would only raise enough revenue to fund the government for a week. Hence, they are pushing for the White House to reform entitlement programs, which account for 44 percent of the overall federal budget.
“I’ve been waiting for the president to become serious about solving the problem. So I don’t know when he’s going to become serious. But it sounds to me like we’re running out of time. And we’ll take our cues from the speaker as to when they’re able — if they’re able to reach some kind of agreement,” McConnell said.
He pointed out that the U.S. now has “a debt the size of our economy,” arguing that “you can’t leave the kind of country behind for our children and grandchildren that our parents left behind for us until you make the entitlement programs meet the demographics of our country.”
After an unsuccessful attempt last year, McConnell said the Republicans now “have another opportunity here at the end of the year” to “engage” the president on entitlement reform.
“We’ll have another opportunity later when the debt ceiling issue arrives. When are we going to make this decision? That’s our question,” McConnell said.
“Admittedly, the president has some advantages, being one messenger — you’d think this whole discussion was about nothing other than raising the top two tax rates. That, as we’ve pointed out, has literally nothing to do with solving the problem. And I’ve been waiting for the president to become serious about solving the problem.”