1:21 am Jan. 7, 2013
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the rounds on Sunday morning to insist that taxes are no longer up for discussion, after last week's deal to avert the fiscal cliff, and signaled that Republicans are ready to fight over the debt ceiling.
"We have a few opportunities here in the next few months, presented to us by his request to raise the debt ceiling, by the sequester kicking in two months from now, by the continuing resolution to operate the government, plenty of opportunities to generate that discussion" he said on "Face the Nation," one of three appearances McConnell made on Sunday morning.
Conservatives have railed against last week's deal, which raised taxes on the highest-earners without exacting any significant spending cuts, even as some Republicans have conveyed that the real fight will occur over the debt ceiling, where some in the party think they have more leverage.
McConnell stuck to a strict script about the importance of spending cuts, but did nothing to dispel the idea that he would ransom the debt ceiling for more cuts, just as Republicans did last year.
"The time to confront it is now," he said.
Republicans also indicated they were ready to fight with President Obama over the nomination of their former colleague, Chuck Hagel, as Secretary of Defense.
“If Hagel is nominated, it is very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support his nomination,” said incoming Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas on "Fox News Sunday."
Hagel's nomination appeared to be dead last Sunday, when a number of Republicans said they would have a difficult time supporting Cruz, and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer offered a noncommital response to the nomination, which will include lots of discussion about Hagel's commitment to Israel and his willingness to be tough on Iran.
McConnell promised a "fair hearing."
"I think it will be a lot of tough questions of Senator Hagel but he'll be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate," he said.
The other big topic was gun control, and a Washington Post report that Obama's task force had been consulting with aides to Michael Bloomberg, with an eye toward a broad proposal that would include a national database of firearms.
"I don't think the federal government has any responsibility creating a national registry of people who choose to lawfully keep and bear arms," said Cruz.
But the most troubling sign for Democrats hopeful of enacting new regulations came from another new senator, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“I think you need to put everything on the table," she said, "but what I hear from the administration, and if the Washington Post is to be believed, that’s way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about, and it’s not going to pass.”