During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," McConnell said there is nothing wrong or even unusual with the GOP seeking concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the limit on government borrowing.
"I think the president is taking an unreasonable position to suggest that we ought to treat his request to raise the debt ceiling like some kind of motherhood resolution that everybody says 'aye,'" he said.
McConnell said the White House is entrenched in a take-it-or-leave-it stance on spending, which flew in the face of Capitol Hill tradition.
"That has been the pattern for 50 years going back to the Eisenhower administration," he said. "I think it's the responsible thing to do for the country."
White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the debt ceiling was too important to the U.S. economy to be dragged into the political arena and be used to leverage special-interest legislation.
He said both parties should unite to avoid a repeat of last fall's government shutdown.
"The American people shouldn't have to pay their partisan Congress a ransom for doing their most basic function, which is paying the bills," Pfeiffer said. "They have passed what is essentially a debt limit that is free of ideological writers the last two times. They should do it again and spare the country the drama and economic damage of repeating a move no one wants to see."