Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants “significant” near-term cuts in federal agency budgets paired with longer-term reductions to programs like Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for his support for a boost in the U.S. debt limit.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after Senate Republicans met with President Barack Obama in Washington, McConnell said he wants goals set over time to help curb federal budget deficits, including caps for the next two years on spending for programs appropriated by Congress.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he will insist on big policy changes in the Medicare and Medicaid health-care programs to help restore the nation’s fiscal balance. He urged Obama to help specify adjustments both parties can embrace. Doing so now, with bipartisan support, would help nullify the policy changes as issues in the 2012 elections, he said.

“We can do something important for the country together, and this is the opportunity,” the top Senate Republican said. “That is the importance of this debt ceiling moment. It is the one time when we have to come together, and we need to come together to do something really significant.”

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