McConnell shrugs off Tea Party "hostage" claims

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS' "Face the Nation," July 31, 2011.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shrugged off claims Sunday that the Republican party had been "taken hostage" by the Tea Party in the debt-ceiling negotiations, arguing that "we don't have any more internal differences in the Republican conference in the House and Senate than they do in the Democratic conference in the House and Senate."

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In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," McConnell, R-Ky., said recent GOP divisions over the debt limit debate were mere expressions of "different points of view" - and that the current tensions were nothing in the context of America's history of "robust political debate."

"There are different points of view," McConnell told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "We come from different parts of the country. We have different philosophies."

He added: "You know, Bob, we've always had robust political debate in this country. I mean, what we've got going on now kind of pales in comparison to what Adams and Jefferson used to say about each other and what Adams and Hamilton said about each other."

Tension has broken out among House Republicans in recent weeks as Tea Party members continued to push up against GOP leadership on a plan to raise the debt ceiling despite warnings by House Speaker John Boehner to "get your ass in line."

Ultimately, however, House Republican leadership added a balanced budget amendment to Boehner's plan in order to guarantee the necessary support from the caucus Friday. The amended proposal made the GOP bill even more toxic to Democrats and the White House, and the Senate swiftly voted it down hours after it passed the House.

Leading Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., however, argued that the recent strife among Republicans was more than just politics as usual.

"I haven't seen anything like the sort of new group of sort of hard-right people who believe compromise is a dirty word," Schumer told Schieffer on "Face the Nation." "When you have divided government, as I believe Senator McConnell pointed out, you have to compromise ... Many of them [say] that it's OK for the nation to default. Now that just flies in the face of logic."

Schumer argued that this faction of House Republicans had "added an element" to congressional negotiations that "in my 37 years as a legislator, I have never seen."

"It just seems when there are facts that everyone else agrees on," Schumer said, "they just say no."