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Posted at 11:04 AM ET, 06/27/2011

Ahead of Obama meeting on debt, McConnell says taxes should be off the table

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday renewed his call to take tax increases off the table in the debt-limit talks between congressional leaders and the Obama administration.

Republicans “want to finally get our economy growing again at a pace that will lead to significant job growth,” McConnell wrote in an op-ed published on, hours before he is to huddle with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House to discuss the debt ceiling.

“The Democrats’ response has been a mystifying call for more stimulus spending and huge tax hikes on American job creators,” McConnell wrote. “That’s not serious, and it is my hope that the president will take those off the table today so that we can have a serious discussion about our country’s economic future.”

The op-ed underscores that despite having made progress over the past seven weeks on a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan, the two parties remain far apart on key issues such as taxes, entitlement reform and health-care spending.

Monday’s meeting will mark the first time Obama and McConnell will personally wade into the debt-limit talks.Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had taken part in the first phase of the negotiations, which were led by Biden. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also took part.

The seven-member working group had begun to identify $1 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years. But the negotiations came to an abrupt end last week when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced that he was pulling out of the talks over an impasse with Democrats on taxes. Kyl followed suit, and the White House announced Friday that Obama would hold separate meetings Monday with McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Congress faces an Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or send the country into default. Any final debt-limit deal will likely come down to Obama, Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). While Obama’s meetings Monday will mark a key turn in the talks, further progress will likely have to wait until the House returns from recess next week

There was little indication over the weekend that either party would budge on the most contentious issues in the talks. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday reiterated that Democrats want a deal that includes the repeal of oil and gas industry tax breaks and the closing of tax loopholes for the wealthy

“You can’t cut your way out of the deficit,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You have to have revenue on the table.”

In addition to arguing that taxes must factor into any balanced debt-limit deal, Democrats have contended in recent days that such a plan should also include additional stimulus spending in areas such as infrastructure in order to boost job creation.

McConnell rejected both on Monday, describing the call for more stimulus spending as “mystifying” and arguing that any debt-limit deal that includes tax increases would not garner enough support to pass Congress and would harm the economy.

“Not only is there bipartisan opposition, the consequences of massive new tax hikes would be fewer jobs,” McConnell wrote.

By  |  11:04 AM ET, 06/27/2011

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