By Nathaniel Weixel – 12/06/17 05:24 PM EST
© Greg Nash
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal 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 interview on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show.
Health-care entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid “are the big drivers of debt,” Ryan said, “so we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said he’s been speaking privately with President Trump, who is beginning to warm to the idea of slowing the spending growth in entitlements.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.
“I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare,” Ryan said.
House and Senate Republicans are currently working on their plans for tax reform, which are estimated to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. Democrats have voiced concerns that the legislation could lead to cuts to the social safety net.
Ryan is one of a growing number of GOP leaders who have mentioned the need for Congress to cut entitlement spending next year.
Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said that once the tax bill was done, “welfare reform” was up next.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), last week, said “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future” will be the best way to reduce spending and generate economic growth.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told Bloomberg TV that “the most important thing we can do with respect to the national debt, what we need to do, is obviously reform current entitlement programs for future generations.”
Ryan also mentioned that he wants to work on changing the welfare system, and Republicans have in the past expressed a desire to add work requirements to programs such as food stamps.
Speaking on the Senate floor while debating the tax bill last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he had a “rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”
His comments were echoed by Ryan.
“We have a welfare system that’s trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work,” Ryan said Wednesday. “We’ve got to work on that.”
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