WASHINGTON – Former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told PJM that the rising federal deficit does not contradict the GOP’s message of fiscal responsibility because “both parties share the blame” for spending more than the federal government brings in each year.
During the first GOP presidential primary debate on Aug. 6, 2015, Republican candidate Donald Trump said he would work to tackle the deficit and national debt.
“This country, right now, owes $19 trillion and they need somebody like me to straighten out that mess,” Trump said, garnering applause.
The national debt is currently over $21 trillion. According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the deficit is projected to exceed $1 trillion in 2020.
Priebus, the former White House chief of staff, was asked if the $1 trillion deficit would hurt the GOP’s message on reducing spending heading into the midterm elections.
“No, because I think both parties share the blame for it and until both parties are willing to tackle long-term entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, which they are not – no one really is – then you are always going to have those deficits,” he replied. “Because you can’t tackle deficits unless you deal with those issues, and right now there’s no will do it.”
The CBO has attributed the projected deficit increase, in part, to reduced federal revenue from the GOP tax cuts.
“It’s a small portion compared to the unfunded liabilities from Medicare and Medicaid, so if they want to tackle it that’s what they need to do but neither party wants to do it,” Priebus said.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending make up the largest portion of the annual federal budget. The trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds have estimated that the Medicare Trust Fund would be depleted by 2026 while the Social Security Trust Fund is estimated to run out by 2034.
Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary and deputy assistant to the president, was asked if the increased deficit gets in the way of the White House and GOP message of fiscal responsibility.
“I don’t want to talk too much about elections. I’m in a government role, but I’ll just say the president and Republicans are going to have a lot of great things to talk about with respect to what they’ve done over the last year and a half,” he said. “We’ve got an economy with low unemployment, we’ve got really robust growth, we hope to see more growth tomorrow and the world is safer. The president has a lot of great things to talk about and Republicans will have a lot of great things to talk about, so we’ll see what happens in November.”
Recently on Capitol Hill, PJM caught up with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to get his reaction to the rising deficit under President Trump after years of Republicans criticizing former President Obama’s deficits.
“Look, there’s no doubt we need to turn around debt and deficits, that’s why I voted against the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill earlier this year. That being said, we’re seeing the return of economic growth, driven primarily through tax cuts and cutting job-killing regulations — that’s the only force strong enough in the long term to turn around our debt,” he said.
PJM also asked Priebus if he thinks Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), founder of the House Freedom Caucus, would make a good Speaker of the House.
“I’m a big fan of Jim Jordan, but my opinion of who should be speaker doesn’t matter. I’ll let the members of the House figure that out,” he replied.