McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem'

McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem'
© Getty

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said the nation’s rising debts were something for both parties to address.

Treasury data released Monday showed that the federal deficit increased some 17 percent in 2018 to $779 billion, President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s first full fiscal year in office. Republicans, traditionally a party that advocated fiscal conservatism, hold control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.

"It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem," McConnell told Bloomberg News. "It’s a bipartisan problem.”

McConnell said the true culprit behind the rising deficits was mandatory spending.

“The three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year,” he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg TV. “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs.”

Mandatory spending, which does not require new approval by Congress each year, accounts for the lion’s share of federal spending each year and has been projected to drive increases in the deficit well into the future.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the 2018 deficit came in well above projections because of recent legislation, specifically the GOP tax bill, which cut revenues, and a bipartisan spending deal, which increased discretionary spending, the portion of federal expenditures approved each year by Congress.

In fact, legislation that Congress passed during the 2018 fiscal year increased the deficit nearly 50 percent in 2018, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a watchdog.

Before the new legislation, the group projected a deficit of $531 billion, lower than the 2017 deficit. Of the $793 billion the group projected for the final deficit in 2018, $164 billion came from the tax law, $68 billion came from the spending deal, and $30 billion came from other legislation.

Congressional Democrats blasted McConnell for targeting popular mandatory programs after using the deficit to finance tax cuts and spending increases.

“Like clockwork, Republicans in Congress are setting in motion their plan to destroy the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that seniors and families rely on, just months after they exploded the deficit by $2 trillion with their Tax Scam for the rich,” said House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices Why do Republicans keep trying to outspend Democrats in Congress? MORE (D-Calif.).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOn The Money: Trump, Congress reach two-year budget, debt limit deal | What we know | Deal gets pushback from conservatives | Equifax to pay up to 0M in data breach settlement | Warren warns another 'crash' is coming Overnight Defense: Iran's spy claim adds to tensions with US | Trump, lawmakers get two-year budget deal | Trump claims he could win Afghan war in a week Trump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal MORE (D-N.Y.) sounded a similar note, indicating the political importance of the issue ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“As November approaches, it’s clear Democrats stand for expanding affordable health care 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 said.