Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Lays Out His Legislative Priorities and Talks Bipartisanship

Photo: Will Congress accomplish anything in its lame duck session?
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Fresh out of his meeting with President Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told ABC News' Jonathan Karl he sees at least two areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together as the 111th Congress expires.

"One thing I think we all agreed on at the White House was that we ought to do first things first and what the American people want to know is are my taxes going up and how are you going to fund the government," McConnell told ABC News.

When it comes to bipartisan cooperation during the lame duck session, the stakes are high and get higher as final adjournment creeps closer: Emergency unemployment insurance expired Tuesday night. Friday, funding for the federal government runs out and, in a little over a month, the Bush tax cuts will expire.

Republicans support extending Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, while the president and Democrats, citing the burden on the deficit of across-the-board tax cuts, say that extension should not apply to the wealthy.

McConnell signaled a willingness to compromise on how long to extend the tax cuts but drew a red line on the issue of extending them for everybody, regardless of income level.

"One hundred percent of Senate Republicans and several Senate Democrats believe we should not be raising taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession," McConnell said. "We can discuss how long this existing extension of tax policy should be."

In a press conference directly following the bipartisan summit at the White House Tuesday, Obama also addressed the division between the two parties and the challenge of finding areas of compromise.

"None of this is going to be easy. We have two parties for a reason. There are real philosophical differences, deeply held principles to which each party holds," the president said. "Although the atmosphere in today's meeting was extremely civil, there's no doubt that those differences are going to remain no matter how many meetings we have. And the truth is, there will always be a political incentive against working together, particularly in the current hyper-partisan climate."

The dialogue between Republicans and Democrats will continue in January when congressional leaders join the president at Camp David, an invitation McConnell acknowledged was a step in the right direction, even as he seemed to snub it.

"If the president wants to have social events, that's great, I'm all for that," the senator told ABC News. "The important thing is we agreed on a group that is going to get together to solve this tax problem and hopefully do it on a bipartisan basis and do it now. This is not about social events; this is about doing things for the American people."

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