White House won't rule out future entitlement cuts

White House won't rule out future entitlement cuts
© Greg Nash

White House officials wouldn't rule out future cuts to Social Security and Medicare, while insisting Monday that President Trump wouldn’t touch benefits for current recipients.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the administration's first budget outline won’t address entitlement reform, echoing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments on Sunday to Fox News.

Trump promised during the campaign not to cut Social Security or Medicare payments for current beneficiaries, a pledge backed by Mnuchin during his confirmation hearings.

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Mulvaney, a former congressional fiscal hawk who promised to push for entitlement reform as Trump’s budget director, said the outline won’t break Trump’s promise to maintain current Social Security and Medicare benefits. He wouldn't say whether the administration would seek changes to Social Security and Medicare later.

“It’s the president keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do,” said Mulvaney at the White House press briefing. “We are taking his words and we turning them into policies and dollars.”

Mulvaney said Trump’s first budget blueprint would be released on March 16, outlining basic expenditures for the federal government. A full budget with policy and economic projections, including potential entitlement reforms, would be released in early May.

Newly elected presidents typically release budget blueprints before full comprehensive proposals in their first year, while they staff their administration and develop policies.

Mulvaney declined to say whether the May proposal will address entitlement reform, noting the White House just started the budgeting process.

“This is not a full-blown budget,” said Mulvaney of the March outline.

When asked whether Trump would consider future entitlement reforms, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president stands by his promise not to cut benefits for current recipients, but did not answer whether Trump would consider cuts for future beneficiaries.

“The president understands the commitment that was made to seniors," said Spicer. “Regardless of whether you voted for him or not, whether or not you agree with his policies, he’s a man of his word.”

Trump hasn’t said whether he’d consider cuts for future entitlement beneficiaries, despite years of Republican efforts to reform Social Security and Medicare. The programs are two most expensive parts of the federal budget, and the trust funds fueling them are projected to run dry in less than two decades.

Democrats have embraced Trump’s promise and warned him to oppose potential Republican efforts to cut or adjust benefits.