Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters at a breakfast Thursday morning that she secured “a personal commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that Congress would avoid deep automatic cuts to Medicare and other federal programs that would be triggered by the costly tax bill up for a vote this week.
The Congressional Budget Office reported earlier in November that the tax bills currently on the table would cost the government so much that it would trigger the so-called PAYGO law, putting into motion more than $100 billion in cuts to the federal budget, including an immediate $25 billion cut to Medicare.
Collins said Thursday that she confronted McConnell “asking what is the plan to avert that,” and was told that Congress would vote to waive the PAYGO cuts as they have more than a dozen times before, likely as part of the end-of-the-year government funding package.
“I met with Senator McConnell just yesterday, and he has assured me that that will not be allowed to happen,” Collins said. “If it were going to occur, I would not even be considering voting for this [tax] bill.”
Yet a vote to waive the PAYGO requirement and skirt the budget ax depends on whether Democrats join with Republicans to do so—something McConnell cannot promise or control.
The cuts can only be waived by a majority of the House and a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate.
Though Democrats do not want to trigger cuts to Medicare and other social safety net programs, they also have little interest in bailing out their Republican counterparts’ expensive tax cut bonanza. Meanwhile, some Republicans have begun to send signals that deep cuts to government spending to finance their corporate tax cuts is more of a feature than a bug.
Still, Collins insisted of the looming Medicare cuts, “Neither side of the aisle wants that to occur.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.