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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

McConnell’s Debt Claim ‘Rejected’

Sen. Mitch McConnell wrongly claimed President Obama "rejected the only plan the Democrats have proposed" to raise the debt ceiling. That's not true. The White House has explicitly supported the proposal.

The Senate minority leader made the false statement in a July 26 speech on the Senate floor.

McConnell, July 26: Last night the president rejected not just the only proposal that has passed either house of Congress, he rejected the only plan the Democrats have proposed as well — a plan that would increase the debt limit without raising taxes.

McConnell was referring to the Democratic proposal offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday. Contrary to McConnell's statement, however, President Obama has supported — not rejected — the Reid plan. In a statement released July 25, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described Reid's proposal as "a responsible compromise" and "a reasonable approach that should receive the support of both parties." The president's support for the Reid plan was widely reported before the president's speech to the nation that same night. It would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and reduce budget deficits, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, by $2.2 trillion over 10 years — mostly through caps on discretionary spending.

In an e-mail to us, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the Kentucky senator was correct in his statement, because "the Reid bill has no tax hikes" and "the president said such bills are 'not right' and 'not fair.' " All such bills, by this line of thought, are necessarily rejected by the president.

While it is true that Obama has been pushing for tax increases as part of a bill to raise the debt limit, the president has not said he would reject any deal that did not include such measures. In fact, in his address to the nation Monday night, the president reiterated his support for the Senate Democrat's bill.

Obama, July 25: Congress now has one week left to act, and there are still paths forward. The Senate has introduced a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don’t have to go through this again in six months. I think that’s a much better approach, although serious deficit reduction would still require us to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform.

The president has said that he believes cutting certain programs without raising taxes is "not right" and "not fair."

Obama, July 25: How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for? That’s not right. It’s not fair

But it's wrong to take such statements as an outright rejection of the Democratic plan, especially when the president explicitly stated his support for that proposal.

— Scott Blackburn