During an interview with CNN's John King, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republicans would not shut down the government in order to repeal the health care law but they would do everything in their power to chip away at it and repeal it piece by piece instead.
When asked what issues the Republicans would be willing to work with President Obama on, of course McConnell said they'd be more than willing to help him outsource some more jobs with these free trade agreements, keep the tax cuts for the rich in place and balance the budget on the backs of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid recipients. So in other words as long as he's willing to govern like a Republican, they'll work with him.
KING: Now, of course, the Democratic president knows the Republican Senate leader doesn't want him in the white house, but when you say these things so some would say combatively and so soon after the election, why should he think there is going to be a relationship of trust here when he knows you're looking at every negotiation to get him.
MCCONNELL: You shouldn't cherry pick my remarks. I have also said the president said he is for trade agreements. In fact, today we talked about the Korea free trade agreement. Most of my members are for trade agreements. We have three pending, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. We ought to work on them together and ratify them. He says he is for nuclear power. I'm for nuclear power. He says he is for clean coal technology. I'm for clean coal technology. It could well be John that he will take a message that maybe we ought to reduce spending and debt. If he does that I think he will find more people willing to help him on my side of the aisle than on his. So I think it is not particularly noteworthy that I would like to elect a Republican president in '12 and he would like to have a second term in '12. What is more important to the American people is what are we going to do between now and then.
KING: I want you to listen to what you said today because it is significant.
MCCONNELL: We will also have to work in the house on denying funds for implementation and in the Senate on votes against its most egregious provision.
KING: Would you take that to the point of shutting down the government or not passing a budget if that's the only way to deny funding for the health care bill?
MCCONNELL: No. We are not talking about shutting down the government. What we're doing here is talking about responding to the American people's desire that this bill not become law. My first choice is to put a full repeal on his desk. If we were able to do it or if we were able to do it he would certainly veto it. After that you come back and go after it piece by piece. For example, he conceded just the other day at his press conference this stupid 1099 requirement that a business person have to send out a 1099 form to anybody who did $600 worth of business with. The IRS said it couldn't handle the paper. This bill is 2700 pages long. It is replete with those kinds of problems. We need to try to fix as many of them as we can. Some of them, he indicated, he would go along with.
KING: Let's be very specific on this because some provisions of the healthcare bill are unpopular, others are popular or might be 50/50. If you were to get the power to start to repeal some of it, could you guarantee the American people before you took away parts you don't like would you leave in place the ban on denying somebody coverage for preexisting conditions?
MCCONNELL: That was not particularly controversial. That is one of the parts of the bill everybody liked.
KING: Under no circumstances would Republicans make that go away?
MCCONNELL: The price for that is we had to swallow 2,700 pages of a government takeover of American health care. What we would like to do is to get rid of this. We know that's not possible with him in the white house and start over and do it right. Those were the arguments we made throughout the health care debate. The American people ended up siding with us.
KING: You know what they're saying. They're saying Republicans want a repeal and that means no preexisting conditions, no children can stay on their parents until they're 26 years old. No the lifting of lifetime caps on coverage. Would Republicans leave those in place?
MCCONNELL: I would not negotiate with the substitute would look like. There are way more parts of this bill that are unfortunate and unpopular and should be done away with, than a few portions of it that had pretty broad bipartisan support. Those are the things we were arguing we should have done instead of having the government take own 1/6 of the economy.
KING: So answer somebody out there, whether they're a Democrat or an independent or maybe just even some Republicans doing the math, who says OK this Republican leadership says they want to reduce the deficit, but if you extend the Bush tax cuts, I understand your policy argument, people can agree or disagree with what, but in the short- term, that would add to the deficit, somewhere in the ballpark of $700 billion $800 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the Obama health care bill, with all the policy disagreements that you have with it reduces the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years or so. How can you --
MCCONNELL: The assumptions are all wrong. The fact of the matter is if you raise taxes in the middle of a recession, the government is going to get less revenue, not more. To do that right now John would raise taxes on 750,000 small business, which represents 50 percent of small business income, 25 percent of the workforce, in the middle of a recession, you're going to get less revenue, not more. Nobody seriously believes the health care bill is actually going to save money. Nobody believes that. So don't assume that you're going to exacerbate the deficit by doing any of these things. What we need to do is get a handle on domestic discretionary, we have already made some steps in that direction. Right now in this Congress, Senate Republicans insisted on close to a freeze on this year's appropriations bill. The Democrats have already conceded that point. It's not a small matter, it would save $300 billion over ten years. Then with regard to entitlements, we're anticipating a report from the president's debts and reduction commission December 1st a month from now about how to go forward on a bipartisan basis, to address the long-term unfunded liabilities, the big ones, Medicare, Medicaid, social security. I hope that's the kind of thing that he can embrace and that we can embrace.
KING: I'm going to ask you lastly about some politics. People very close to you and I'm told you believe this. I'm not sure how much you'll say publicly that you get mad at the map. Right now you're going to be shy of 51. You will not be the majority leader but if you look at Delaware, you had an establishment candidate beaten in the primary. Everyone believes he would have won. If you look at Colorado, most Republicans believe that the candidate that was beaten in primary by tea party and conservative support, just lost the election, they believe the establishment candidate would have won. Nevada, they believe again that the tea party candidate lost, the establishment candidate could have won. Washington State is still out there being counted. If that one goes Republican, and you lose those three, that denies Mitch McConnell the majority.
MCCONNELL: Well you can play what if forever. I mean the nominations are decided in the primaries. Let me give you the good news. After the '06 election, I had one freshman Republicans, after the 2008 elections, I had two freshmen Republicans. I'm going to have 13 and we're at a very robust minority and a body that requires 60 to do anything. I think we have a lot to be grateful for. The outcome of the election was really quite satisfying.
KING: Is one of your challenges though as the leader whether it's with Senator DeMint in your own conference or with others out there who supported it those candidates, who knocked off your favored candidates, to say look, if we're going to grow going forward, we got to figure out a way not to do this?
MCCONNELL: I don't think we need to lecture anybody, we're going to have a larger number, a lot of experienced people, some brand-new people. I'm going to be the leader of a much larger army and that's a great problem to have. When you're a leader of a mere 41, you have a scarcity problem. I would rather manage abundance than scarcity.
KING: Senator McConnell, thanks for time.