Budget chief: Trump could review entitlement reform after first budget

Budget chief: Trump could review entitlement reform after first budget
© Greg Nash

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Monday that President Trump could soon review potential reforms to Social Security and Medicare — but he stressed that the reforms under consideration wouldn’t touch payments for current beneficiaries.

Mulvaney said he plans to prepare several entitlement reform proposals for Trump after finishing the White House’s first budget outline proposal this week. Mulvaney previously said the top-line budget proposal wouldn’t address entitlements.

Mulvaney, a fiscal hawk, said he’s trying to garner support for entitlement reform that follows Trump’s campaign promise not to touch Social Security and Medicare payments for current recipients.

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“I’ve already started to socialize the discussion around here in the West Wing about how important the mandatory spending is to the drivers of our debt,” Mulvaney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in a Monday interview. “People are starting to grab it.”

“There are ways that we can not only allow the president to keep his promise, but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these mandatory programs.”

Mulvaney has been expected to clash with Trump over federal spending. Democrats claimed Mulvaney’s past efforts in Congress of seeking sweeping budget cuts and entitlement reform conflicted with Trump’s promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, boost military spending and spend billions on infrastructure.

Social Security and Medicare are the two biggest federal expenditures. The U.S. federal debt is close to $20 trillion.

Mulvaney said Trump wasn’t likely to propose raising the age at which someone could retire and receive full entitlement benefits. Instead, he floated changes to Social Security disability payments, which Mulvaney called “one of the fastest growing and probably one of the most abused mandatory programs in the country.”

Mulvaney also said Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could lay the groundwork for Medicaid reform.

“The national narrative is we’re not going to do anything on mandatory spending,” said Mulvaney. “But I think really what this president is interested in doing is not affecting the benefits for folks, and saving these programs long term. And I think there’s a way to do that.”