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Ryan: Trillion-dollar deficits were inevitable

The Hill logo The Hill 4/15/2018 Alexander Bolton

Paul Ryan looking at the camera © Provided by The Hill Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says that trillion-dollar deficits could not have been avoided by the GOP-controlled Congress, responding to critics within his party who say that leaders have behaved irresponsibly.

"That was going to happen. The baby boomers retiring was going to do that," Ryan said on NBC's "Meet the Press" of projections that the country will start running trillion-dollar deficits as soon as 2020.

Ryan and other GOP leaders have come under fire for passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut last year, which may wind up costing more than expected, in addition to a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package in March.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has said voting for the tax package "could well be one of the worst votes I've made" and that the Trump administration is "on track to be one of the most fiscally irresponsible administrations in history."

Ryan, however, says the projected spike on spending for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will have the biggest impact on future deficits.

"These deficit trillion-dollar projections have been out there for a long, long time. Why? Because of mandatory spending which we call entitlements," he said when pressed by NBC host Chuck Todd on Corker's criticism.

Ryan, a former House Budget Committee chairman, notes that the Congressional Budget Office projects discretionary spending to increase by only $300 billion over the next decade and for total tax revenues to continue to increase.

"Mandatory spending which is entitlements, that goes to $2 trillion over the next decade. Why does it go to $2 trillion? Because the boomer generation is retiring," Ryan said.

He pointed out the House passed legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, which would have included steep cuts to Medicaid, calling the proposal "the biggest entitlement reform bill Congress had ever considered."

He said the Senate was responsible for it failing to pass, deflecting some blame for the deficits across the Capitol.

On the topic of discretionary spending, Ryan said Congress will need to reform its appropriations process to avoid having to pass trillion-dollar-plus omnibus deals in the future.

"This is why we have a commission, a committee now between the House and the Senate which is going to bring the Congress a new budget system. That is what we have to do if we want to get this under control," he said.

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