The leading Republican Senator said the White House is not intent upon addressing government spending and debt, and disputed a Democratic Senator's accusation that the GOP budget plan was "reckless."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that Republican control of the House and Democratic control of the Senate means it is the "perfect time" to tackle budget matters, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, if both sides embrace a solution before the 2012 elections. "I haven't given up hope, but frankly I'm not optimistic," he said.
When asked if he thought Mr. Obama was serious about getting something done with regards to the budget battles between Republicans and Democrats, McConnell said, "No, I don't. I have now had a number of private conversations with the president and the vice president. I was hopeful that we would step up to the plate here, if you will, and use this divided government opportunity to do something big about our long- term problem.
"I don't have any more complaints about the conversations with them; I've had plenty of conversations with them. What I don't see now is any willingness to do anything that's difficult," he told host Bob Schieffer.
When asked why he thought the administration was not serious, McConnell said, "I've a number of conversations with people who count at the White House, and I think that so far I don't see the level of seriousness that we need. For example, they're in denial about Social Security. They are saying Social Security is not a problem. The Congressional Budget Office said it's running a $50 billion deficit this very year. Medicare, Social Security are unsustainable. Medicare, Medicaid is unsustainable."
Earlier on the program, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he thought the two sides in Congress could get together soon, and was hopeful it could be soon because, he said, "I don't believe what we have from the House is a serious economic plan.
"I think it's an ideological, extremist, reckless statement," Kerry told Schieffer. "If that were to be in fact put in place, it would contribute to the reversal of our recovery. It might even destroy our recovery. It will certainly deny us the competitiveness that we need to move with China, India and other countries into the future.
"I think it's a very dangerous plan - it cuts teachers, it cuts education, it cuts research, it cuts energy research. All the things we need to do, Bob, to make America number one again and to move into the global marketplace, their budget sets us back."
"It's not a real discussion of America's needs. We need to be doing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. We need to have defense spending on the table. We need a comprehensive approach. But we cannot eat America's seed corn in terms of our competitive capacity for the future."
McConnell disputed Kerry's assertion that the Republican plan was "reckless."
"What's reckless, Bob, is the $1.6 trillion deficit we're running this year," McConnell said. "What's reckless is the $3 trillion we've added to our national debt. Our national debt is now the size of our economy. We begin to look a lot like Greece. And this doesn't even deal with our long-term unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, [adding] up to over $50 trillion of promises we've made to future generations that we cannot meet.
McConnell said the negotiations have only come "about one-sixth of the way to where House Republicans are, and where I am the majority and hopefully all Senate Republicans are."
"It's just a pebble in the ocean to what we need to do," he said, "This is the time to do important and difficult stuff. And I agree with the Washington Post: Where's the president? Where is the leadership? We're prepared to do difficult things, but he must be a part of it because, well, we're not looking at making an issue here. We're looking at making a law. That requires the signature of the President of the United States."
McConnell also compared unemployment rates between government workers and the private sector, and said that while "the American people have shed millions of jobs," the government has added 100,000 jobs during the Obama administration.
"Our priorities are out of whack. When my friend John Kerry says cutting government spending is reckless, I'm wondering, what planet is he living on?"