Independent analyses found tax cuts caused $779bn deficit to balloon but Republican cited health and retirement benefits
A day after the treasury department announced the federal budget deficit had reached $779bn, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said popular government programs, not massive tax cuts passed by Republicans last year, were to blame.
Independent analyses have found the tax cuts have caused the deficit to balloon faster than predicted. In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, however, McConnell rejected that argument.
Citing federal spending on healthcare and retirement benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security, McConnell said changes to such programs would require cooperation from Democrats.
Its disappointing but its not a Republican problem, McConnell said. Its a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.
Three weeks remain until the midterm elections, in which the Democrats seem poised to take back the House if not the Senate. McConnell suggested that might drive reform.
I think its pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve when you have unified government, McConnell said.
According to the treasury, the deficit has grown to its highest level since 2012. Republicans have long campaigned on cutting the deficit but McConnell was among those who insisted that the $1.5tn tax cut signed into law by Donald Trump would stimulate economic growth to offset its cost.
That argument was undercut by Mondays report, which found the federal deficit had increased by 17% compared with the previous fiscal year.
Democrats pounced on McConnells remarks, painting them as part of a Republican agenda to slash programs intended to help low-income and retired Americans.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said to suggest cutting Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid was nothing short of gaslighting.
Senator Mitch McConnell, President Trump and their fellow Republicans blew a $2tn hole in the federal deficit to fund a tax cut for the rich, Schumer said in a statement.
As November approaches, its clear Democrats stand for expanding affordable healthcare and growing the middle class while Republicans are for stripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid to fund their giveaways to corporate executives and the wealthiest few, he added.
Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who focuses on federal budget policy, said: Senator McConnell confirmed what everybody has known all along: the Republican plan is to pay for tax cuts for their donors and themselves by slashing Medicare and social security for working people.
Theyve turned the government into a chop shop, where everything that the middle class spent decades building is dismantled and sold off to their political benefactors.
This is not the first time Republicans have signaled they will seek to scale back healthcare and anti-poverty programs.
Last month, House speaker Paul Ryan said efforts to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid would be contingent on expanding Republican majorities. Ryan, who is retiring, has said Medicare, the federal healthcare program for those 65 and older, is the biggest entitlement weve got to reform.
As a candidate, Trump vowed not to touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. As president, he has offered budget proposals that would slash all three programs. Republicans have unveiled budget blueprints that include drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the federal-state healthcare program for the poor.
The presidents top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, hinted last month at changes or cuts to government programs, stating: We have to be tougher on spending.
I dont want to be specific, Kudlow said. I dont want to get ahead of our own budgeting, but well get there.
As campaigning continues ahead of the midterms, Republicans have largely turned away from their own tax bill. A HuffPost review of GOP messaging found that just under 12% of all Republican TV ads mentioned the tax bill, which is Trumps major legislative accomplishment.
Polling has found that the tax overhaul, which disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthy, is increasingly unpopular. The Republican National Committees own survey found that by 61% to 30%, respondents said the tax law benefited large corporations and rich Americans over middle-class families.