McConnell on CNN: Congress 'very close' on debt ceiling deal of $3 trillion in cuts, caps

07/29/2011 11:22 PM

Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator and Senate GOP leader, said Sunday that he is “very close” to endorsing a deal to raise the debt ceiling while including cuts and caps of spending worth $3 trillion.

McConnell made the comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning after a day’s worth of negotiations with the White House, including talks directly with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m very close to being able to recommend to my members that we have an agreement here that I hope they’ll consider reporting,” McConnell said.

While he didn’t predict final passage later Sunday, he said the deal could come “soon.”

He told CNN’s Gloria Borger that the framework of an agreement includes a $3 trillion package – “a combination of discretionary cuts, both cuts now (and) caps over the next 10 years to hold spending in line.”

McConnell was less definitive over how the deal would ensure that the Congress comes through with a balanced budget.

“The trigger issue has been the one that’s locked us in the extensive discussions,” he said. “I thought we had an agreement – or were very close to an agreement – a week ago today. And then we went off to our separate corners and in my view kind of wasted a week firing volleys across the Capitol.”

The plan also includes calling on Congress to vote on a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to have a balanced budget each year. But McConnell hinted that the structure of the deal leans more toward requiring a vote later on that measure – not a guarantee to approve it now.

“We intend to be voting on the balanced budget amendment in the Senate and we’ll let you know when it’s scheduled,” McConnell said – repeating a version of that lines when Borger pressed him with follow ups.

However, many Republicans in the House and Kentucky’s other U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, have said they plan to reject any plan that doesn’t include Congress voting now on a balanced budget amendment.

McConnell declined to weigh in on how many GOP votes House Speaker John Boehner must deliver.

Of his negotiations with Obama and Biden, McConnell did say “I like them both.”

Following McConnell on “State of the Union,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said the mood in Washington Sunday is that of “relief — relief that we won’t default.”

“Default is far less of a certainty now that it was a day ago,” he added.

Schumer said the automatic budget cut “triggers” would include provisions that neither party is thrilled about. For Democrats, he said, that is the cuts to certain federal programs. For Republicans, that could be deeper cuts to defense spending, Schumer said, instead of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

But Schumer said Democrats will still push for those tax increases.

- Ryan Alessi

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