Mitch McConnell: Tax code already "extraordinarily progressive" and needs to be changed


UPDATED 12:46 p.m. ET

(CBS News) The United States tax code is already "extraordinarily progressive" and should be restructured, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, noting that more than two-thirds of the money the government collects already comes from the wealthiest ten percent of taxpayers.

In an interview that aired on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said he is ready to sit down with "this president or the next president" and have an animated discussion about the tax code to "reach a conclusion" that would bring down the ballooning U.S. deficit.

"Almost 70 percent of the federal revenue is provided by the top 10 percent of taxpayers now. Between 45 percent and 50 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. We have an extraordinarily progressive tax code already. It is a mess and needs to be revisited again," McConnell said in the interview, taped Monday.

A "progressive" code increase tax rates as income increases.

Democrats want a "balanced approach" to bring down the deficit, using a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while Republicans favor simply cutting spending.

Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush caused a stir in Republican circles earlier this month when he told the House Budget Committee that he would have taken the hypothetical offer to increase taxes for a dollar of revenue if it came with $10 in spending cuts. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he would reject that offer in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" over the weekend.

McConnell said he willing to make a so-called "grand bargain" with the Democrats, but he said he "will not make a commitment in advance about what I will or won't do."

"The issue of revenue, from our point of view, is tied to serious entitlement reform," McConnell said, referring to changes to such federal benefit programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

"The biggest challenge we have, Charlie, for the future is the unsustainable path of our entitlements, very popular programs, the eligibility for which needs to be adjusted in order to meet the demographics of America," McConnell said.

The conservative Republican also said he wants to throw out President Obama's health care even if the Supreme Court does not strike down the constitutionality of the law when it makes its ruling on the matter sometime this month.

"It was a huge, huge mistake, the single biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing America. I hope the court strikes the whole thing down. Whether they find it unconstitutional or not, it's still a big mistake and we just need to start over and try to get it fixed," he said.

An earlier version of this article said, "The United States tax code favors lower income Americans too much already and should be restructured to make it fairer to upper income earners, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said." An aide to Sen. McConnell called to clarify that the Kentucky Republican has never called for lowering rates only on upper income Americans but said the code should be "simplified" and taxes should not increase on anyone.