McConnell: "Very close" on deal to avoid default

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS' "Face the Nation," July 31, 2011.
(Correction, Aug. 1, 2011: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that a deal on the debt ceiling between Republicans and Democrats called for a second wave of proposed spending cuts due by Thanksgiving 2012. The article has been corrected to show that the congressional committee charged with recommending the cuts has a deadline of Thanksgiving of this year.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday that Republicans and White House negotiators were "very close" to a deal on raising the debt ceiling and that an agreement that would prevent the nation from defaulting on its loans was "just within our reach."

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," McConnell expressed confidence that Congress and the White House could reach a compromise before the Tuesday's deadline and that "we'll avoid default, avoid raising taxes and begin to get the government's house in order by dealing with our biggest problem, which is that we've been spending entirely too much."

"We've come a long way," he told CBS' Bob Schieffer.

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Republicans and Democrats are negotiating a deal that would extend the debt limit through 2012 and cut up to $3 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.

The reductions would come in two waves. The first wave would include $1 trillion in reductions. and a bipartisan "super congressional committee" would need to determine the second round of cuts by Thanksgiving. If Congress fails to act on the second round, there would be automatic "trigger" cuts to defense spending and entitlements.

McConnell said that the committee, which would be made up of equal parts Republican and Democratic lawmakers, would take a "broad look at the most serious problems" in government spending in order to determine what the second round of cuts would encompass. He noted that the committee would have the authority to raise revenues and enact tax reform.

"The committee has a broad mandate to look at the entire spectrum of concerns and certainly tax reform is something both Democrats and Republicans think is long overdue," he said.

He expressed his confidence that the deal would be able to garner support among both Democrats and Republicans - though he conceded that some members from both parties would find the compromise "wanting."

"I believe there will be a strong bipartisan support for this," McConnell told Schieffer. "Again, this deal has not been finalized yet, but I think we're very, very close to something that I could comfortably recommend to my members, and I believe the Democratic leadership will be doing the same."

"I'm sure there will be both Democrats and Republicans who in the end find the agreement wanting in one way or another," he said.

Still, he said, "My party controls only a portion of government. There's only so much you can achieve when you don't have the leverage of power."

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third most powerful Democrat in the Senate, said on the show that he felt "a lot better today" about Congress' ability to come up with a deal to avoid default "than I did even yesterday morning."

But he emphasized that "nothing is done yet" and that there were "lots of decisions yet to be made."

"We haven't even seen it yet," Schumer said, of the deal in progress. "(Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid and Democrats in the Senate have not signed off on this deal. We don't even know what all the details are. So we're not yet ready to try and urge anybody to be for it."

"The key with the trigger is one word: Equality," Schumer continued. "It should be equally tough on Democrats and Republicans."

The Treasury Department has said it will hit the maximum amount of its borrowing authority Tuesday and default on its loans unless Congress acts. The administration has warned that an economy-shaking default could balloon interest rates and wound the global economy.