This morning on ABC’s This Week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reiterated what has become the go-to Republican talking point in the wake of the fiscal cliff deal: That the issue of taxes and new revenue is finished, and will not be re-opened. “Now the question is, what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future,” McConnell said.
But this time host George Stephanopoulos pushed back. He pointed out that since last year Congress has already cut $1.5 trillion in spending, without any counter-balancing hikes in tax revenue until the fiscal cliff deal:
STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has said he’s willing to engage in more discussions over the sequester and the government shutdown, but that would also include new revenues. You say that the tax debate is over.
McCONNELL: Oh yeah, the tax use is finished, over, completed. That’s behind us. Now the question is, what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future? And that’s our spending addiction. It’s time to confront it. The President surely knows that. He’s mentioned it both publicly and privately. The time to confront it is now. We have to engage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just interrupt you there. In the last year in the Budget Control Act, the Congress actually cut $1.5 trillion in spending. That’s more than was raised in revenue in this last fiscal cliff deal. So are you saying that any discussion of revenue is completely off the table going forward? You will not accept any new revenues in any new deal?
McCONNELL: Yeah, absolutely. The tax issue is behind us. Now the question is, what are we going to do about the real problem?
Stephanopoulos got one detail wrong: The spending cuts of 2011 came from the spring budget deal to avert a shutdown as well as the Budget Control Act, which concluded the last debt ceiling crisis. But the total cuts did come out to at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade — and considerably more than that, once reduced interest payments due to a smaller debt are factored in.
So more than twice the $600 billion in new revenue raised by the fiscal cliff deal. And before that there was the $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending passed in the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The country has, in fact, already “confronted” the spending problem.
Even if Obama’s call for a balanced deal going forward is strictly adhered to, the country’s total deficit-reduction efforts would still be tilted in favor of the GOP’s preference for spending cuts. McConnell’s stone-faced insistence today that any future deal contain nothing but spending cuts vastly compounds the imbalance.
And as Stephanopoulos pointed out later in the interview, it’s a stance that makes a future agreement impossible by definition.