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Boehner, McConnell Pledge to Tackle the $18 Trillion National Debt
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) talks to reporters with (L-R) Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol March 5. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Boehner, McConnell Pledge to Tackle the $18 Trillion National Debt

"A national debt that has Americans stealing from their children..."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the anticipated Senate leader next year, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), pledged Wednesday to refocus their efforts on reducing the national debt, which is about to soar past $18 trillion.

The two leaders outlined their plans in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that said they will make the next Congress focus on "many of the most pressing challenges facing the country."

Mitch McConnell, Haley Barbour Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the presumed Senate majority leader in the next Congress, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) say reducing the national debt will be one of their top priorities next year.

That includes, "a national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay," they wrote.

The Republican takeover of the House in 2010 has let the GOP put some pressure on the Obama administration to slow spending. But resistence from Democrats has only allowed something close to a spending freeze for the so-called "discretionary" accounts that Congress controls.

Meanwhile, "mandatory" programs have continued to grow, and that, combined with the stimulus spending after the Great Recession, has let the debt soar. Two years ago, the national debt was $16.2 trillion, and as of this week, it was $17.9 trillion.

In the last fiscal year, the national debt increased by just over $500 billion, and that number is expected to rise again in the coming years.

Aside from the debt, Boehner and McConnell said they would focus on "health care costs that continue to rise under a hopelessly flawed law," a reference to Obamacare. Republicans have indicated they could seek another full repeal of the law, one that could pass the Senate under GOP control, and then possibly consider smaller repeal bills.

Another key priority is the "savage global terrorist threat that seeks to wage war on every American," a reference to the Islamic State.

Earlier Wednesday, McConnell indicated that there could be ways for Congress and the Obama administration to work together on trade and tax reform, and their op-ed calls for changes to the "insanely complex tax code that is driving American jobs overseas."

Education and regulation are also priorities, as is making what many now see as an inept federal government work again. The two pledged to improve a government that is "ill-equipped to serve a citizenry facing 21st-century challenges, from disease control to caring for veterans."

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