Augusta, MAINE – Speaker Paul Ryan and the House of Representatives again appear to be looking to throw into doubt another one of the agreements Senator Susan Collins struck in exchange for her vote on tax reform.
In a radio appearance yesterday, Speaker Ryan said that Congressional Republicans next year will be looking to cut Medicare and Medicaid in order to reign in the deficit -- a move that immediately follows Republicans ramming through a massive tax cut for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations that is projected to increase the deficit by more than $1 trillion.
“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 appearance on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show. "... Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Speaker Ryan’s statement flies directly in the face of the spirit of an agreement that Senator Susan Collins reached with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which he stated that the tax bill would not lead to triggered cuts in Medicare.
“I have a personal commitment that that will not occur and that has been discussed with Paul Ryan on the House side,” Collins told reporters, according to a report in The Hill. “If it were to occur, I wouldn’t even be considering voting for this bill.”
While Collins’ agreement focused on Medicare cuts triggered under a Congressional “pay-as-you-go” rule, it’s clear that Republicans are intent upon using the ballooning deficit they are creating through their tax scam as an excuse to slash Medicare – a move Senator Collins should be deeply concerned about.
“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn't the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said last week.
“We're spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, said. “Now, let's just be honest about it: We're in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don't help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don't help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett released the following statement in response:
“Senator Collins never should have voted for this damaging, corporation-enriching tax scam in the first place. Now Republicans are making it crystal clear they intend to use the deficit they are creating as justification to cut programs that seniors, disabled, and low-income Mainers rely on — making their bad bill even worse for hardworking Maine families.
"It's time for Senator Collins to stand up for the people she represents and say enough is enough. The stakes are simply too high for Senator Collins to continue defending a tax bill that’s going to mostly benefit the wealthy while hurting so many people across our state. We urge her to withdraw her support for this bill."
Speaker Ryan’s statement comes as he and other House Republicans have thrown cold water on the other deals Senator Collins has reached with Senator McConnell, including one to pass stabilization and reinsurance bills that she has questionably claimed would mitigate the impact of the repeal of the individual mandate.
According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 23 percent of the state's population rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health insurance. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for certain younger people with disabilities. Medicaid provides health and long-term care coverage to low-income pregnant women, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities in the United States. Medicaid is also a major source of funding for hospitals, community health centers, physicians, and nursing homes.