At the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce’s first inaugural public policy luncheon, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to business leaders about the past two weeks in Washington leading up to the debt agreement, and said the key to getting out of debt will be entitlement reform.
“What needs to be done obviously is we have to adjust the trajectory of these very popular entitlement programs or they’re not going to be there at all,” he said. “The goal is for these people — and I think we’re all going to put very responsible people who want a result on there — will be to come back with a hopefully significant entitlement reform. And anybody who tells you we don’t need to do anything to entitlements is not telling you the truth. They’re clearly on an unsustainable path.”
He acknowledged that part of the reason for the entitlement programs’ problems is the advances in medicine and the higher life expectancy.
McConnell addressed Standard & Poor’s recent decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating and said he hopes the downgrade provides “one more bit of incentive … to get this job done and to do it in an incredible way.”
He said he didn’t know what impact the downgrade may have, and that there was nothing good about it.
“It certainly underscores that we ought to get our financial house in order. We need to start now,” he said. “Whether you think S&P is politically motivated or not, is really kind of irrelevant … it’s true that we’ve got to get about dealing with this.”
McConnell, along other Senate and House leaders, will be in charge of nominating three people to the joint committee of Congress that must recommend additional cuts of at least 1.5 trillion by Thanksgiving.
Congress must then approve the cuts by Christmas. He said he thought the consequences of a deadlock from this committee — “huge cuts to defense and the domestic side as well” — would be too severe for people to purposefully create a deadlock.
“Now, candidly, I could pick three people that probably wouldn’t be too interested in getting an outcome,” he said. “I’m not going to do that, the speaker’s not going to do that, and I’m hopeful that the Democratic leaders are not going to do it as well.”
McConnell said it never occurred to him to nominate himself to the committee, and he said he would not do that. He said he knew who he was going to appoint but could not say.
Spencer Blue, vice president of Freedom Metals Inc. in Winchester, asked McConnell what it was like negotiating behind closed doors on the debt ceiling, because of all the public bashing in the media.
“The president’s a very smart guy, and the vice president’s smart and capable,” McConnell said, adding that he and Democratic members don’t hate each other. “Look, these are very smart people. It’s just that there are different views about what America ought to be, and so it’s hard to come to an agreement.”
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