With a government shutdown looming when the temporary spending bill expires March 18, many blame the split majorities in the House and Senate for delays in a final budget. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), agreed that a final agreement must be reached, but instead views the split chambers as an opportunity for debate that could lead to a better solution than a full majority could reach. Instead, he says, the divided government is being wasted.
McConnell, the lead Republican senator, appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning, following senatorial colleague and Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry had called the GOP’s proposed budget “reckless.” Not surprisingly, McConnell disagreed with Kerry’s analysis.
“What’s reckless, Bob, is the $1.6 trillion deficit we’re running this year,” he told host Bob Schieffer. “What’s reckless is the $3 trillion we’ve added to our national debt. our national debt is now the size of our economy. We begin to look a lot like Greece.”
Though McConnell said he had had “a number of private conversations with both the president and the vice president,” he was not enthusiastic about making progress in closing the budget gap and reaching bipartisan agreement, in part because he sees Obama as passive.
“This is the time to do important and difficult stuff. I agree with the Washington Post: Where’s the president? Where’s the leadership? We’re prepared to do difficult things, but he must be a part of it, because we’re not looking to make an issue here, we’re looking to make a law, and that requires the signature of the president of the United States.”
McConnell was referring to Ruth Marcus’ March 4 Washington Post column, “Obama’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency,” in which she labelled Obama “too often more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.”
“I was hopeful that we would step up to the plate here, if you will, and use this divided government opportunity to do something big about our long-term problems. I don’t have any more complaints about no conversations with him — I’ve had plenty of conversations with him — what I don’t see now is any willingness to do anything that’s difficult. This is the perfect time to do it.”
Watch McConnell in the clip below, from Face the Nation, broadcast on CBS News on March 6, 2011.