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- House Speaker Paul Ryan has hinted at pivoting to entitlement reforms in 2018.
- Republican lawmakers have said President Donald Trump informed them he will not touch entitlements until a second term.
- Democrats are already saying cuts to Medicare and Social Security are nonstarters.
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan’s longtime dream of reforming America’s entitlements might have to wait until President Donald Trump secures a second term, due to the political risks, fierce opposition from Democrats, and general hesitance to tackle the issue from the White House.
In addition to reshaping the federal tax code, reforming entitlements has always been a goal of Ryan’s and other fiscal conservatives.
“Next year, we’re going to have to get back to entitlement reform,” Ryan said on a radio talk show earlier this month.
But Trump has told multiple Republican members of Congress that going after entitlements in his first term is off the table. A Republican member of Congress who briefed a small group reporters last week said Trump relayed to the lawmaker that he would not touch Social Security “until the first day of his second term.”
Rep. Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, echoed the GOP lawmaker on Thursday.
“I specifically recall the president saying that we weren’t gonna touch Medicare and Medicaid in his first term,” he told Business Insider.
“So I’d be surprised if we do something as big as tax reform, infrastructure,” Marchant added. “I’d be surprised if it ever raises to that level.”
Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania told Business Insider that he hopes entitlement reform can make its way into the 2018 agenda.
“We need to look at things right now that while are very well-intended, they may not be sustainable, at least not from a standpoint of the way a business would look at it,” Kelly said. “So we’re gonna have to take a really hard look at what we’re doing.”
And Kelly suggested that Trump feels the same way, at least in theory, that Social Security and other entitlements need to be reined in soon.
“There’s nothing worse than not keeping a promise. The only thing worse is making a promise that you know when you make it, that it’s not fitted,” he said. “So we’re gonna have to go through that. I think that the president feels that way too.”
“You still have an organic demographic crisis coming,” said Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona. “At some point we’re gonna have to grow up and all deal with it.”
Mitch McConnell and Democrats suggests entitlement reform is an impossible task
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To make things more difficult, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a Axios event Thursday morning that entitlement reform would be impossible without Democratic support and that he “would not expect to see that on the agenda.”
“What the Democrats are willing to do is important, because in the Senate, with rare exceptions like the tax bill, we have to have Democratic involvement,” McConnell added.
Top Democrats essentially confirmed McConnell’s idea that entitlement reforms are completely off the table.
Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal said “it subtracts from their credibility” to want to cut entitlement spending after passing the major tax overhaul on Wednesday that most credible analyses project will increase the federal deficit by at least $1 trillion.
Entitlement reform “is going to be very difficult now,” Neal added. “Very very difficult.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference Thursday that holding the line on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security “will be part of our fight in this year.”
“Social Security is in reasonable shape until at least 2030-something,” Pelosi said. “But nonetheless, we want that to be even longer and these are issues that can be talked about separately. But we will fight to defend them because they are about the health and economic security of America’s working families and we will not use Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as an ATM machine for the Republicans to give tax breaks to their wealthy friends and corporate America.”