Kerry, McConnell whack budget adversaries on seriousness

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was taken aback by Mass. Sen. John Kerry's budget remarks on Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation.

Kerry said the current conversation in Congress prioritizes spending cuts over the need for economic growth, to the economy's detriment.

"I don't believe what we have from the House is a serious economic plan," the Massachusetts Democrat said. "I think it's an ideological, extremist, reckless statement. If that were to be, in fact, put in place, it would contribute to the reversal of our recovery, might even destroy our recovery."

Kerry echoed the concern shared by many Democrats that aggressive cuts to government spending could slow down or even halt the budding economic recovery. Many have argued that the Republican focus on the deficit ignores the immediate problem of a sluggish economy and high unemployment.

But McConnell shot back that Democrats have been unwilling to make the necessary cuts to dig the country out of a mounting funding crisis.

"Look, this is the time to get serious," McConnell said. "The administration, with regard to this year's negotiations... has only come about one-sixth of the way to where House Republicans are, and where I and a majority -- and hopefully all -- Senate Republicans are. This is a good place to start, but it's just a pebble in the ocean to what we need to do."

Although lawmakers averted a government shutdown last week with a budget extension, they still must negotiate a longer-term solution before government funding runs out on March 18. And despite ongoing negotiations, both parties seem to be digging their heels in on opposite sides of the funding battle.

Vice President Joe Biden intervened in the negotiations last week by holding a meeting with leaders from both the House and Senate. Biden is said to have pushed for the administration's plan to cut $10.5 billion, an offer Republicans have rejected as insufficient.

McConnell argued Sunday that the White House has not been serious enough about reaching an agreement that would seriously address the long-term budget problems facing the federal government.

"I've had a number of conversations with people who count in the White House, and I think that so far, I don't see the level of seriousness that we need," the Kentucky Republican said. "... You step back and look at what this administration's done, they've sort of pumped up the government.... Our priorities are out of whack. When my friend John Kerry says cutting government spending is reckless, I'm wondering, what planet is he living on?"

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