(CBS News) The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, criticized President Obama for failing to lead on the debt, calling it the nation's "biggest problem," and indicating that nothing will get done about it until he takes initiative.
On "Face the Nation," McConnell said "this president needs to become the adult" when it comes to the long-term debt, adding that he and House Speaker John Boehner "have been the adults in the room arguing that we ought to do something about the nation's most serious long-term problem."
McConnell told host Bob Schieffer that the president has had three-and-a-half years to tackle the deficit, but "we could not get this president to do anything serious about entitlement reform, for example, the single biggest threat to future generations."
Earlier in the week, Speaker Boehner said he will demand additional spending cuts before Congress approves another increase to the debt ceiling, which came as a surprise to many. The previous fight over the debt ceiling nearly shut down the government before Congress and the president agreed to $1.2 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for the debt ceiling to be lifted.
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McConnell said he agreed with Boehner's statement: "If the president is going to ask us to raise the debt ceiling again, and he will early next year - we do need to have another serious discussion about trying to do something significant about the deficit and the debt," he said.
McConnell said that without Mr. Obama taking action, nothing can be done regarding debt. "Look, without presidential leadership, nothing is, can be accomplished," he said. "We didn't have presidential leadership last year. It's pretty clear the president's not going to lead on this any time soon.
"We don't control the entire government," McConnell added. "We control the House of Representatives only. We'd like to do something about the nation's biggest problem - spending and debt, which is, of course, the reason for this economic melees and this high unemployment - And whenever the president is willing to engage, we're ready to go."
Despite Speaker Boehner's recent statement about cutting more spending in relation to the debt ceiling, however, the House passed a defense spending budget on Friday that increases spending by $8 billion, ignoring the previous debt ceiling agreement to cut $600 billion.
When asked by Schieffer if the cuts agreed to last year - including cuts to the Pentagon - should stand, McConnell (who was not involved in the House bill) replied, "Yeah, I don't think we ought to cut a penny less than we're pledged to cut."
But he said he was open to discussing how the promised reduction could be allocated differently. "I happen to be among those who think it's much too tough on the Defense Department - defense of the nation is our single biggest responsibility at the federal level of government in this country. But I don't think we ought to cut a penny less than we promised the American people last year we would," McConnell told Schieffer.