McConnell: Rising Debt/Deficit Is 'Bipartisan' Problem

By Susan Jones | October 17, 2018 | 8:16am EDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Photo: Screen capture)

( - The total national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in Fiscal 2018, reaching $21.5 trillion at the end of September; and the FY '18 budget deficit was almost $779 billion.

Although the situation is "very disturbing," it cannot be blamed on Republicans alone, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Bloomberg News on Tuesday:

It's driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular – Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. That's 70 percent of what we spend every year. The subject we were just discussing, the funding of the government, is about 30 percent of what we spend.

There's been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we'll get serious about this. We haven't been yet.

McConnell said the opportunity for entitlement reform existed during the Obama years, when for six of those years, Republicans controlled either one or both chambers of Congress.

"I talked to President Obama about it a number of times," McConnell said. "It would have been the perfect time to do it. Think of Reagan and Tip O'Neill coming together in the early 80s to raise the age for Social Security. It took it out of the political arena and made it possible for it to be successful... unfortunately, it was not achieved."

Democrats blame the Republican tax cuts for ballooning the FY 2018 deficit, and they consistently resist any attempt to trim entitlements.

Last month, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said the Trump administration "probably" would consider entitlement reform next year.

In his interview with Bloomberg, McConnell also laid out his priorities for the upcoming lame-duck session, but he had to be prodded before mentioning the border wall.

"Well, we've done 84 judges, we're going to finish the ones that are…on the floor of the Senate before the end of the year," he said. "And we need to fund the government -- the 25 percent of the government that we didn't fund before the end of the fiscal year. That'll be the top priority."

"And the wall comes into play there -- the border wall, the funding for the border wall," Bloomberg's Kevin Cirilli prodded McConnell:

"Yeah, and we're going to try to help the president get funding for the wall," McConnell replied. "The Democrats are pretty resistant. That'll be a pretty interesting fight."

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