House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)
Ryan’s remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Republicans are close to passing a tax bill nonpartisan analysts say would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion over a decade. Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill, and Senate Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.
While whipping votes for the tax bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.
Liberals have alleged that the GOP will use higher deficits — in part caused by their tax bill — as a pretext to accomplish the long-held conservative policy objective of cutting government health-care and social-service spending, which the left believes would hit the poor the hardest.
“What’s coming next is all too predictable: The deficit hawks will come flying back after this bill becomes law,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the finance committee, during a speech on the tax debate. “Republicans are already saying ‘entitlement reform’ and ‘welfare reform’ are next up on the docket. But nobody should be fooled — that’s just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs.”
Ryan said he’s optimistic, adding that Republicans could target the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid next year in addition to Medicare, despite their failure to repeal the health care law in 2017.
(Excerpted from Washington Post 12/6/17)