Mitch McConnell: Sen. Schumer's 'On Another Planet'

Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal interviewed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who talked tough. "I am not willing to raise taxes to turn off the sequester. Period." He said Sen. Chuck Schumer is "on another planet" to think Republicans would just raise tax rates and close loopholes.

Moore noted this is a negotiating position. “This isn't to say that next week, when the lame-duck congressional session begins to negotiate some kind of budget solution, taxes are off the table. Mr. McConnell is a realist.” And Obama will come looking to strike deals with moderate Republicans:

It isn't at all certain that Mr. McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will be able to hold their troops together. The senator understands that Mr. Obama will try to cut a deal with other senators—Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—but Mr. McConnell doubts that the tactic will work. "We have differences on other issues, but on taxes I can't think of a single member of my conference from Maine to Texas who thought he was sent here to Washington to raise taxes on anybody or anything."

...I ask him about the recent counterproposal by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer that Republicans should abandon tax reform of the kind that passed in 1986 and lowered rates in return for fewer loopholes, and instead should both close loopholes and keep tax rates high to lower the deficit. "He's on another planet," Mr. McConnell replies, and doesn't seem to be kidding.

Would Republicans accept the liberal dream of a value-added tax as a new revenue machine? "There won't be any new tax. It's not going to happen in this Congress," he says.

What is clear about the coming tax-cliff negotiations is that Mr. McConnell doesn't trust the White House after the debacle of the debt-ceiling nonsolution in July 2011.

"The speaker and I spent an endless amount of time in the first half of 2011 trying to get the president to do what we all know has to be done if we're going to save the country," Mr. McConnell says. "Until we adjust the entitlement programs to fit the demographics of today's America, you can't fix the problem. You can't tax your way out of it. You can't cut health-care providers as a way out of it. But Democrats laughed at those ideas even when we offered a quarter-trillion of higher revenues largely taken from high-income people."

....What is also evident from our conversation is that Mr. McConnell and his colleagues don't trust the president and his underlings even in closed-door meetings. "He was never serious in 2011 about solving the debt problem. What happened was the president set the crossbar so high on taxes that he knew we couldn't get a deal." Did Mr. Obama intentionally sabotage the deal? "Sure, it was clear to me in retrospect that the whole strategy for re-election was to energize his liberal base."

Yet Mr. McConnell is convinced that a deal isn't hopeless, and he mentions the one time in Mr. Obama's first term that Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement. "I was the one who personally negotiated with Joe Biden the extension of the current tax rates" after the 2010 midterm elections. "When the president said, 'I'm for it,' 40 Senate Democrats voted to extend the Bush tax cuts, which leads me to my point: Without the president, we can't fix this problem."

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