WASHINGTON – Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY) told reporters Friday that he will refuse to support a debt limit increase if Medicare cuts aren’t attached to the legislation.
“To get my vote, for me, it’s going to take short term [cuts, via spending caps]… Both medium and long-term, entitlements.,” McConnell said, as quoted by TPM. “Medicare will be part of the solution.”
Asked point blank whether he would vote against increasing the debt limit if Medicare isn’t also cut, he responded, “Correct.” McConnell didn’t say whether he would filibuster such a bill, which may leave some room for it to pass without his support.
The minority leader rejected the notion that Republicans may back off the House-passed GOP plan to replace the program with a subsidies system, after losing an election in a heavily Republican New York district this week that was centered on Medicare.
McConnell’s stance reflects that Republicans may see the debt ceiling debate as their best opportunity to scale back Medicare. The proposal to phase out Medicare is unpopular with the public and failed 40-57 in the Senate this week. Democrats have roundly rejected it.
Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t poll well, but economists consider it vital to avoid a financial catastrophe. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said that Congress must increase the limit by August 2 or the U.S. would have to start defaulting on its obligations.
McConnell’s remarks are likely to revive charges of hostage-taking from opponents of cutting Medicare. Vice President Joe Biden began negotiating this week with Congressional Republicans on what spending programs to cut in order to raise the ceiling.
[h/t Brian Beutler]