McConnell 'optimistic' on tax cut/unemployment deal but elusive on debt issues

12/05/2010 10:00 AM

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said he expected “some kind of extension” of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

“I think it’s pretty clear now that taxes aren’t going up in the middle of a recession,” he said. “We’re going to have some kind of extension. I’d like one as long as possible.”

He made the comments the morning after a bill to extend only the cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 a year and couples earning less than $250,000 failed to win enough support in the Senate. That legislation was passed by the House on Thursday and is backed by President Barack Obama.

Republicans have stood firm that they want all of the tax cuts Congress passed during George W. Bush’s administration to live on, including those for the wealthiest Americans. The cuts are scheduled to expire Dec. 31.

McConnell said he believed Congress also would extend unemployment benefits to the jobless, some of whom have seen their assistance run out this month.

Later in the program, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry said he too believed Congressional Democrats and Republicans would reach agreements before the end of the lame-duck session of Congress. But he lashed out at Republicans for choosing tax cuts for the top earners while “holding hostage” the unemployment benefits.

Kerry called Republicans “reckless” and “bankrupt” of ideas.

“What we’ve seen is a Republican Party that’s absolutely prepared to deny unemployment insurance to people who have been laid off … who want to put food on the table for their families,” Kerry said. “Here’s the problem — You just had the minority leader on here … and all he talked about was the need to come to them. All he talked about was: ‘if they can do something that makes us comfortable.’ That’s not how you compromise.”

Meet the Press moderator David Gregory also asked McConnell about a host of other issues:

  • On Congress ratifying the suggested arms treaty with Russia, McConnell said, “I haven’t made a decision on how I’m going to vote.”
  • On President Obama — “I like him personally. We have different political agendas. But hopefully there will be some overlap.”
  • On repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, McConnell said he would defer to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and “follow his lead.” McCain has argued against the repeal.
  • And on the recommendations by the commission on long-term debt, McConnell declined to say whether he would support the suggested ways to tackle Social Security and Medicare.

“You cannot do entitlement reform with just one party,” McConnell said. “It would be absolutely irresponsible to sit here on a Sunday talk show and blow the negotiations.”

McConnell was unequivocal about his opinion of Julian Assange, the controversial head of Wikileaks.

“I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done enormous damage,” he said, adding Assange and those found guilty of leaking confidential government documents should be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

- Ryan Alessi


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