(CBS News) The debate over taxes on Capitol Hill "is over," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted today on "Face the Nation," adding that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif.,"underscores the voracious appetite for more taxes on the other side."
With a deal reached on the first of the year to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," extending the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 a year and couples making less than $450,000 a year, McConnell said, "the tax issue is over. We resolved that a few days ago."
Pelosi, who appeared on the program right before McConnell, argued the "cliff" package did not offer enough in terms of revenue, but implied that closing loopholes and deductions in the tax code was a more likely course going forward. Though McConnell agreed tax reform is "a good idea," he added, "now that we have resolved the revenue issue, tax reform ought to be revenue-neutral."
"Now it's time to pivot to the single biggest threat to our country, both in the short-term and the long-term... and that's reducing spending," McConnell said. "We now have a debt of $16.4 trillion. That's as big as our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. We have an incredible spending addiction. This administration has driven spending as a percentage of our economy from 21 percent up to almost 25 percent."
Asked if he agrees with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who in a Houston Chronicle op-ed Saturday said the GOP should be prepared to shut down parts of the government if they can't get to where they want to be on spending cuts in the coming negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, McConnell said "it shouldn't require doing any of these things," but indicated that if it comes to that, President Obama is to blame.
"We have a few opportunities here in the next few months presented to us by his request to raise the debt ceiling, by the sequester kicking in two months from now, by the continuing resolution to operate the government - plenty of opportunities to generate that discussion," he said. "But what's really disappointing to me is that the president isn't generating that discussion on his own; that he has to sort of be dragged kicking and screaming to the table when we have these other big issues like the debt ceiling to get him to talk about it. I wish he'd lead."
McConnell wouldn't go as far as to commit to the level of cuts being pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio - one dollar in spending reductions for every one dollar the debt ceiling is raised - but indicated such a demand could be used as "leverage" by Republicans.
"If the president won't lead us here, in the direction of reducing this massive spending addiction that we have," McConnell said, "then we have to use whatever leverage we have. And there are some examples of leverage coming along - the debt ceiling is one of them. That hopefully would get the president engaged, even though he seems unwilling to do it on his own."
As for other top-priority legislation, such as a review of gun laws and treatment for the mentally ill - issues Mr. Obama assured Americans after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., would be handled immediately following his inauguration later this month - McConnell said it may fall to the backburner amid the continuing budget debates.
"Clearly we will not be addressing that issue early, because spending and debt are going to dominate the first three months," McConnell said. But when Vice President Joe Biden, appointed to lead a task force on the subject, does offers proposals, "I'm sure the House and Senate will take a look at them."