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'Lives Hang in the Balance': 21 Days Before Midterms, McConnell Admits GOP Still Salivating to Gut Medicare and Social Security

"Mitch McConnell wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for Republicans' massive giveaway to the rich and large corporations," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Enough!"

Jake Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks to reporters after the Senate voted to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the U.S. Capitol October 06, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Openly confirming that it has been the GOP's plan all along to ram through deficit-exploding tax cuts for the rich and then gut crucial safety net programs to pay for the difference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday falsely blamed America's soaring deficit on "entitlements"—the scare word Republicans use in place of Medicare and Social Security—and said these programs must be cut to bring federal spending under control.

"This has been their plan since Day 1. It's exactly three weeks until the midterm elections and the the Republican Senator Majority Leader is calling to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We're calling to expand them. Let this be known far and wide."
—People for Bernie
"I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it's a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All," McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg less than 24 hours after Treasury Department figures showed that the federal deficit has reached its highest point in six years.

"It's very disturbing, and it's driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid," McConnell added. "There's been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully at some point here we'll get serious about this. We haven't been yet."

Progressive advocacy groups, analysts, and lawmakers were not at all surprised by McConnell's attempt to shift blame for the soaring budget deficit away from the deeply unpopular tax bill and onto the safety net. As Common Dreams has reported, progressives have been warning since before the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts passed last year that the next step on the Republican agenda is a full-scale attack on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

"This has been their plan since Day 1," People for Bernie declared in response to McConnell's comments. "It's exactly three weeks until the midterm elections and the the Republican Senator Majority Leader is calling to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We're calling to expand them. Let this be known far and wide."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who last November pressed McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to come clean on their plan to gut the safety net after passage of the GOP tax bill—added on Twitter that the "American people must stand up and make clear to McConnell that we will expand, not cut, programs working people rely on."

McConnell's open indication that he plans added to the sense of urgency progressives already feel less than a month before November's crucial midterm elections—which several commentators characterized as the last chance to wrest control of Congress from Republicans before they act on their plan to slash Medicare and Social Security.

"It is genuinely not an exaggeration to say that lives hang in the balance in the midterms," declared Sean McElwee, co-founder of the progressive polling shop Data for Progress. "Republicans want to use their political power to kill people."

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