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Posted at 12:53 PM ET, 06/19/2012

Mitch McConnell: Tax code favors lower-income Americans

This item has been updated.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he is ready to sit down with “this president or the next president” to discuss the tax code and “reach a conclusion” that would pay down the nation’s deficit.

But McConnell added that any conversation should focus on reworking the U.S. tax code, which currently requires higher earners to pay most of the nation’s federal income taxes.

“Almost 70 percent of the federal revenue is provided by the top 10 percent of taxpayers now. Between 45 percent and 50 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. We have an extraordinarily progressive tax code already. It is a mess and needs to be revisited again,” McConnell said in an interview aired Tuesday by “CBS This Morning” that was taped Monday.

“The issue of revenue, from our point of view, is tied to serious entitlement reform,” McConnell said. “There is a way to get to the end here and to get an understanding that saves this country. But I will not make a commitment in advance about what I will or won’t do.”

McConnell’s comments on the nation’s tax code are correct — that the wealthiest Americans pay the most federal income taxes while people at the lowest income levels pay far less because they receive refundable tax credits, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

The way McConnell characterized his concerns with taxes however differs from comments Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made on Sunday. Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” what he would do about taxes, Romney said “One of the absolute requirements of any tax reform that I have in mind is that people who are at the high end, whether you call them the 1 percent or 2 percent or half a percent, that people at the high end will still pay the same share of the tax burden they’re paying now. I’m not looking for a tax cut for the very wealthiest. I’m looking to bring tax rates down for everyone.”

McConnell did say again that Republicans “are prepared to do a grand bargain,” but only with “a serious president” — adding later that President Obama wasn’t serious about striking a serious deal during last year’s debt-ceiling negotiations.

Regarding the Supreme Court’s impending decision on the health-care law, McConnell said Republicans remain committed to repealing the law regardless of what the high court decides.

“We need to start over,” McConnell told CBS. “It was a huge, huge mistake, the single biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing America. I hope the court strikes the whole thing down. Whether they find it unconstitutional or not, it’s still a big mistake and we just need to start over and try to get it fixed.”

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