Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long claimed that a legislative priority of his is to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs. However, he won’t even have a chance to, because his Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell is not on board.
The Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader lamented that he could not put entitlement on the 2018 legislative agenda because it is so difficult to achieve. In other words, because near consensus is required and there are so many diverse opinions on the matter, McConnell does not want to waste finite energy debating the topic. “The sensitivity of entitlements is such that you almost have to have a bipartisan agreement in order to achieve a result,” he said.
This position puts him at odds with Speaker Ryan, and may represent a growing rift in the Republican Party. Many Republicans, though, sided with McConnell.
All you have to do is the math,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas. “Unless it’s bipartisan, then you’re talking about reconciliation which means you have to pass a budget, you have to get reconciliation instructions and you have to get 51 Republicans all to vote for it.”
“That’s a pretty steep hill to climb,” he added.
“We’re going to have a narrow majority next year,” said Colorado Senator Cory Gardner of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We’re going to have our hands full with nominations and an infrastructure bill and a bipartisan agenda” without entitlements, he said.
When asked about the matter, West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito said she has other priorities than entitlement. “Well, I’d like to see us pivot to infrastructure. We’ve talked it all year, the president talked about it,” Capito said. “I think it could be a bipartisan exercise. I would certainly hope so.”
Ryan, however, took to the mainstream media circuit to defend the necessity of entitlement. We have to address entitlements, otherwise we can’t really get a handle on our future debt,” Ryan said. He also emphasized the importance of programs for people with low income. “We, right now, are trapping people in poverty. And it’s basically trapping people on welfare programs, which prevents them from hitting their potential and getting them in the workforce.”
Others merely refused to say whether they thought taking on entitlements is a viable plan for 2018. “I have no idea,” said Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. “Merry Christmas.”
Heller is the most vulnerable Republican in the 2018 midterm elections, and may simply be refusing comment for political purposes.