Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “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.”
McConnell’s remarks came a day after the Treasury Department said the U.S. budget deficit grew to $779 billion in Donald Trump’s first full fiscal year as president, the result of the GOP’s tax cuts, bipartisan spending increases and rising interest payments on the national debt. That’s a 77 percent increase from the $439 billion deficit in fiscal 2015, when McConnell became majority leader.
This is a fascinating move. He’s saying that no one should hold Republicans accountable for the increases in the deficit that have come from their enormous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy because the real problem is entitlements, so stop asking them to do anything about it.
But he’s also laying the groundwork for them to do to the next Democratic president what they’ve done to previous ones: Demand cuts to social programs under the guise of deficit reduction, grinding government to a halt if they have to and hampering that Democrat’s presidency. McConnell is truly one of the most cynical figures in American political history.
* Carol Morello and Erin Cunningham report that the Trump administration is looking super-hard into the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi:
Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince promised to expand investigations into the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump tweeted Tuesday, even as kingdom repeated its denials of having any role in the journalist’s fate.
Trump, in back-to-back tweets, gave no details on the possible scope of a Saudi probe in the case. It was also unclear how possible Saudi findings could differ from assertions by Turkish officials that Khashoggi was killed earlier this month after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Trump said he spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, who again “totally denied any knowledge” of what transpired with Khashoggi.
Well, if he “totally denied” it, then case closed.
* Political scientist Aaron Belkin has just launched a new campaign to expand the size of the Supreme Court by four justices. If the court moves right as fast as everyone expects, you’re going to see a lot more support for proposals like this one.
* Annie Waldman and Erica Green report that Charlottesville still struggles with another legacy of Jim Crow: a separate and unequal education system.