McConnell: Entitlement reform not on 2018 Senate agenda

McConnell: Entitlement reform not on 2018 Senate agenda
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump MORE (R-Ky.) says entitlement reform is not on the agenda in 2018, despite what Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests MORE (R-Wis.) and senior Trump administration officials say.

McConnell, speaking at an event sponsored by Axios on Thursday, said the lack of Democratic support for entitlement reform makes it highly unlikely that it will move through the Senate in an election year.

“I think the Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform so I would not expect to see that on the agenda,” McConnell said.

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He said that bipartisan immigration and banking-reform legislation are much more likely to move in 2018.

“What the Democrats are willing to do is important because in the Senate, with rare exceptions like the tax bill, we’ve got to have Democratic involvement,” McConnell said.

That conflicts with Ryan, who earlier this month said it would be a House priority next year.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan told the Ross Kaminsky radio talk show earlier this month.

Ryan called Medicare and Medicaid the “big drivers of debt."

Democrats, however, argue that Republicans have added to the nation’s fiscal problems by passing a $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts on Wednesday.

McConnell will be working next year to protect a majority Republican Senate that will soon include just 51 GOP senators. While the 2018 map favors Republicans in next fall's battle for the Senate, the political winds have been blowing against the GOP and there are now real concerns the Senate majority could be in play.

Lingering resentment over the tax debate will make it more difficult to get Democrats to sign on to reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs.

Republicans passed the tax bill through the Senate with 51 votes using a special budgetary process known as reconciliation. Most large bills need 60 votes to pass the upper chamber to overcome a filibuster.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, an architect of the tax bill, said on Jan. 3 the administration plans to begin work on welfare reform, entitlement reform and an infrastructure investment package at the same time.

McConnell said infrastructure legislation has a better chance of picking up bipartisan support.

"I hope we can go forward on infrastructure," he said. "I think there's a lot of interest in infrastructure.

"I think it's pretty popular with Democrats and Republicans."