McConnell blames budget deficit rise on government programs – not tax cuts

Mitch McConnell speaks after a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on 10 October.

A day after the treasury department announced the federal budget deficit had reached $779bn, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said popular government programs, not massive tax cuts passed by Republicans last year, were to blame.

Independent analyses have found the tax cuts have caused the deficit to balloon faster than predicted. In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, however, McConnell rejected that argument.

Citing federal spending on healthcare and retirement benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, McConnell said changes to such programs would require cooperation from Democrats.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

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Three weeks remain until the midterm elections, in which the Democrats seem poised to take back the House if not the Senate. McConnell suggested that might drive reform.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve when you have unified government,” McConnell said.

According to the treasury, the deficit has grown to its highest level since 2012. Republicans have long campaigned on cutting the deficit but McConnell was among those who insisted that the $1.5tn tax cut signed into law by Donald Trump would stimulate economic growth to offset its cost.

That argument was undercut by Monday’s report, which found the federal deficit had increased…

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