In an interview, McConnell signaled that he’s more than happy to have an argument about taxing and spending in the runup to the midterm elections.

“Frankly, throw me into that briar patch; that’s a debate we’d love to have,” he said.

While Democrats believe they can paint a fiscally irresponsible GOP as holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to help the wealthy, some worry that the nuance could get lost in the heated rhetoric over raising taxes in the middle of a slumping economy. And some say Obama’s equivocation about whether he’d veto a bill that temporarily extends the tax cuts has only muddied the debate.