Short debt limit hike possible: McConnell

WASHINGTON Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:56pm EDT

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes a point about his meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the country's debt ceiling, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes a point about his meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the country's debt ceiling, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress and the White House could raise the debt limit for a few months while they seek a comprehensive, long-term budget deal, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday.

The Obama administration has warned it will run out of money to pay the nation's bills if Congress does not raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit by August 2 -- a prospect that could push the country back into recession and upend global financial markets.

Congressional Republicans, particularly in the House of Representatives, have balked at raising the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts.

McConnell said on Sunday the ceiling could be raised enough to last a few months so that negotiations can continue on a larger deal that would include changes to so-called entitlement programs like Medicare.

"The president and the vice president, everybody knows you have to tackle entitlement reform," McConnell said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"If we can't do that, then we'll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over, you know, a few months. And we'll be back having the same discussion again in the fall," McConnell said.

Vice President Joe Biden is leading negotiations with congressional Democrats and Republicans who are trying to agree on how to narrow huge budget deficits and raise the debt limit so the United States can avoid defaulting on its financial obligations and keep borrowing money to pay its bills.

Biden and top Democratic and Republican lawmakers aim to reduce the country's stubborn budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 10 years in order to give lawmakers the political cover to raise the debt ceiling.

The Biden-led group remains deadlocked over two areas that could provide the biggest budget savings.

Republicans say they will not back any tax increases, while Democrats say they will not reduce health benefits for retirees under the Medicare program. The cost of that program is projected to nearly double over the next 10 years.

(Reporting by Dave Clarke, Editing by John Crawley)