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Boehner, McConnell Bullish About Striking Deal on Debt Ceiling

Republican leaders appeared optimistic Sunday that a deal can be reached to raise the debt ceiling.

“I would hope so, and I think we will,” Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I understand what the president was saying about jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States. That’s why I have said in every public and private utterance that our obligation is to raise the debt ceiling. But to raise the debt ceiling without dealing with the underlying problems is totally irresponsible.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the looming debt ceiling vote an opportunity for both sides to come together and improve the nation’s financial standing.

“Some of our biggest accomplishments in the last century have been when we have a divided government,” the Kentucky Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of this as an opportunity to come together, and those talks are under way led by the vice president.”

McConnell did not commit to Boehner’s demand last week that spending cuts exceed the amount that the debt ceiling is raised, which is likely to be in the trillions.

Instead, he called for a plan that sets a spending cap for the next two years, cuts entitlement programs and other spending from the budget, and takes steps to address long-term concerns about Social Security without raising taxes.

Boehner said Sunday that with the exception of raising taxes, everything — including Medicare and Medicaid — needs to be on the table. He added that President Barack Obama has not yet shown “real action” on addressing deficit reduction.

“I’ve talked to the president all year privately about the fact that we’re not going to increase the debt limit without serious changes,” Boehner said later in the program. “I mean, this conversation’s been going on for quite a while. I’ve offered to the president, I’ve said, ‘Mr. President, c’mon. You and I. Let’s lock arms and we’ll jump out of the boat together.’ I’m serious about dealing with this, and I hope he’s just as serious. No gimmicks.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday” that he would like to hear more about McConnell’s plan. The Illinois Democrat also praised his GOP counterpart, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), who appeared on the show with him and said that although he opposes raising taxes to deal with the deficit, he supports closing tax loopholes.

“I believe [Kyl] has set the stage for us to enter into a meaningful conversation, and it has to be a conversation where Democrats are willing to talk about the future of major entitlement programs,” Durbin said.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who authored a House-passed budget resolution that would privatize Medicare, said Medicare reform should be part of the negotiations.

“It’s not a question of if Medicare is going to change. It clearly is, because it’s going broke,” the Wisconsin Republican said Sunday on “State of the Union.”

He took a jab at Obama and Senate Democrats, arguing that neither has offered a concrete counteroffer to his proposal for $6 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. But Ryan also suggested that both sides must work together on a solution.

“This is not a Republican-created problem or a Democratic-created problem. It’s both parties, and we’ve got to face up to that if we want to get this situation in control,” he said.