LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that if Mitt Romney wins the White House, he should usher in his presidency by halting new regulations and ruling out tax increases to revive a slumping private sector economy.
Kentucky's senior senator also renewed his call for action to get federal spending on Medicare and Social Security under control.
Speaking to a group of about 100 young professionals, McConnell said the U.S. economy is "kind of bumping along," hamstrung partly by overregulation in health care, financial services, energy and other sectors.
In Kentucky, regulations aimed at coal producers have "created virtually a depression" in the state's eastern coalfields, he said.
Then there's the mushrooming federal debt, he said, with four straight years of trillion dollar deficits.
"So I think it's appropriate to ask at this point, 'How's it working out?'" McConnell said. "... Maybe we want to try something different."
McConnell, a fierce critic of President Barack Obama, then offered advice to Romney if the GOP presidential candidate wins.
"On day one, issue a moratorium on all new regulations, tell the American people you're not going to raise anybody's taxes," McConnell said. "And let's see if we can get the private sector going again."
Later, he told reporters those steps would be "a good way to settle down the private sector and get us started in a different direction. Because we're never going to get out of this trough until the private sector starts growing again."
Both Obama and Romney say they want to extend tax cuts for middle-class families. But Obama is opposed to extending cuts for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and couples who earn more than $250,000.
McConnell said the presidential race is a tossup, as is which party will have a Senate majority after next month's election.
"I'll be either the leader of a very small majority or a very big minority," he said. "It's unclear which."
Romney is heavily favored to carry Kentucky, where voters in general have not warmed up to Obama.
Meanwhile, McConnell called for a bipartisan approach to tackle the growing financial burdens from Medicare and Social Security, government programs for seniors. He said the popular entitlement programs are on "unsustainable paths" because Americans are living longer. To do nothing risks both programs, he said.
"It's not about doing anything bad to the programs, it's about keeping them," he said. "Because if you don't do anything, they tank."
McConnell didn't offer any specific fixes, but said a bipartisan deal is needed like the one brokered by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill in 1983. McConnell said today's Senate Republicans will do their part.
"We're ready to get this fixed, to do something that's difficult to explain but necessary," he said.
"And the first easy way to explain it is to say, 'If you're 55 or older, you don't have to listen to the discussion because it's not about you. It's about your children and your grandchildren and whether these programs are going to be there at all for them.'"