Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed “bipartisan reluctance” to reform federal entitlement programs for the rising federal deficit, which the Treasury Department said Monday reached $779 billion in 2018.
“There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs,” McConnell told Bloomberg News. “Hopefully at some point here, we’ll get serious about this. We haven’t been yet.”
McConnell added that he thought the Obama administration missed a window of opportunity to reform programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which account for about 70 percent of what the federal government spends annually.
“We had that opportunity during the Obama years, and I talked to President Obama about it a number of times, and it would’ve been the perfect time to do it,” said McConnell. “Think of Reagan and Tip O’Neill coming together in the early ‘80s to raise the age for Social Security. It took it out of the political arena and made it possible to be successful.
Added the Kentucky Republican: “That’s what we had the chance to do during the Obama years because we had divided government for six of the eight years, unfortunately it was not achieved.”
For years Republicans and Democrats have pointed fingers at each other over the national debt, which reached $21 trillion in 2018. But Democrats, who deflected Republican criticism of deficits and the national debt for years under President Obama, attacked last year’s tax law over the estimated amount of money it added to the debt.
They’ve also tried to tie Republicans to Medicare and Social Security cuts, though it’s unclear if the Trump administration or congressional Republicans actually plan to introduce entitlement reforms.
“The bitter reality of the Republicans’ tax scam dishonesty is laid bare by the Trump Administration’s own report,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday in a statement released on the debt. “Republicans passed a tax scam for the rich that is adding $2 trillion to the deficit in order to give massive tax breaks to Big Pharma, big banks, big corporations shipping jobs overseas and the wealthiest 1 percent.”
Congressional Republicans agreed to allow last year’s tax law to increase deficits over ten years by up to $1.5 trillion on a measurement that does not account for economic growth, while arguing that a growing economy would help the tax cuts pay for themselves. Yesterday’s report from Treasury was the first major data point since the law passed as to whether that prediction might come true.