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McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem'

McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Washington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden 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 TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' 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.”

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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.

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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 Pelosi28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Lawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats House Republican: 'Absolutely bogus' for GOP to downplay Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill 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.