On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) became the highest-ranking Republican to say publicly that the GOP plans to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare programs next year. "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 on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show. House and Senate Republicans are in negotiations on a final tax bill that nonpartisan analysts say would add at least $1 trillion to the deficit, and they recently authorized $700 billion in 2018 spending for the Pentagon, but Medicare and Medicaid — which, along with Social Security, have their own dedicated payroll tax — are "the big drivers of debt," Ryan said.
President Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would not touch Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, but Ryan said he's been successfully selling Trump on the idea. "I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare," he said. Social Security will probably escape, Ryan added, because it can't be changed under Senate budget reconciliation rules, meaning Republicans would need some Democratic support.
In the last two weeks, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) have also proposed cutting Medicare and Medicaid after the tax bill, to tame the national debt. Ryan added welfare programs to the mix, telling Kaminsky, "We have a welfare system that's trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work."