President Trump scrapped potential reforms to Social Security and Medicare while preparing his first budget request, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
Mulvaney, a fiscal hawk and former member of the House Freedom Caucus, said Trump quashed potential changes to Social Security, citing his campaign pledge not to touch the program.
“I laid to him the options that Mick Mulvaney would put on a piece of paper,” Mulvaney told CNBC in an interview that aired Tuesday. “And [Trump] looked at one and said, ‘What is that?’ And I said, ‘Well, that's a change to part of Social Security.’ He said, ‘No. No.’ He said, ‘I told people I wouldn't change that when I ran. And I'm not going to change that. Take that off the list.’ ”
Trump released his first budget proposal on March 16. The plan includes steep cuts to domestic programs and an increase in defense spending but doesn't touch Social Security or Medicare.
Trump’s position on Social Security and Medicare during the campaign promised not to “cut” either program, but he hasn’t specified what he’d consider a cut.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who campaigned for Trump, told The Hill in February that he thought Trump would be open to making changes that would affect future beneficiaries, not current ones. He told CSPAN several weeks later that Trump had effectively taken any Social Security or Medicare reforms off the table.
Until conservatives "make a more compelling case, he's not going there,” Meadows said.
Republican lawmakers have long supported entitlement reforms and have called on Trump to push for Social Security and Medicare fixes. The two programs make up the bulk of federal spending, and trust funds that support benefit payments are projected to become insolvent within the next 10 to 15 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Mulvaney, who supports Social Security and Medicare reforms, told CNBC “we're working on” persuading Trump to embrace entitlement reform, including changes to Social Security Disability Insurance. He declined to say whether Trump would veto bills passed by both changes that affect Social Security or Medicare.
“That's not a really conducive way to sort of maintain a relationship between the executive and the administrative branch,” Mulvaney said. “Let them pass that and let's talk about it.”