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Republicans, White House trade barbs over debt

Republican Congressional leaders return to Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, after meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in advance of his speech on the deficit and his plan for future spending. From left are: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Republicans and the White House stepped up their rhetoric on Thursday but appeared no closer to a pact over reducing the nation's red ink.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said today that President Obama needs to "get serious" about a debt reduction deal and should meet with Republicans on Capitol Hill to realize his demands to raise revenue are unrealistic.

The White House quickly shot down the offer.

The congressional invitation comes one day after President Obama held a news conference to blast Congress, particularly Republicans, for failing to reach a debt reduction agreement as part of a deal to raise the debt limit. The president railed against Congress for taking so many recesses, even as negotiations to raise the debt limit stall. He said the GOP's refusal to accept any revenue raisers -- such as cutting tax breaks for corporate jets or raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires -- was not a sustainable position.

McConnell shot back at the president on the Senate floor today, asking, "I want to know, is there a single member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, who thinks it's a good idea to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in new job-killing taxes at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work?"

McConnell said the president "needs to get serious" and acknowledge that "all of us know that Congress isn't going to approve hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes. It's simply not going to happen."

In order to help the president "get it," McConnell said he was inviting him to visit with Senate Republicans on the Capitol today.

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"The president says he wants to get working, wants us to get working," he said. "I can't think of a better way than to have him come right on over today. We're waiting."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that Mr. Obama wouldn't be taking up McConnell's offer because the president already knows the Republicans' "maximalist" position.

"He also invited the president to hear what would not pass," Carney said. "That's not a conversation worth having. We need to have a conversation about what will pass."

Carney said Mr. Obama has already met with McConnell this week and has already met with the full Republican Senate caucus, and the full House Republican caucus.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- who announced earlier that the Senate would skip its week-long July 4th recess to keep working on the debt deal -- also said he's invited the president to visit Congress.

Reid said the Senate Democratic caucus will have a series of meetings next week and that he's invited Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to attend Wednesday's meeting.

"We are confident they will be able to be here, or we'll go there," he said. "These big issues are resolved by meetings, people meeting and discussing things."

Asked about that meeting, Carney simply responded he had no scheduling announcements to make. He went on to say that not every meeting between the administration and members of Congress will necessarily be announced to the press.

The U.S. government already hit the $14.3 trillion debt limit on May 16, but the Treasury Department implemented what it called "extraordinary" measures to keep the government from defaulting on its loans. The White House has been negotiating with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to try to hash out a deal to raise the debt ceiling while making plans to reduce the deficit.