President Donald Trump said he intends to cut entitlement programs during a town hall forum in Pennsylvania on Thursday night.
When Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested that if “you don’t cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt,” Trump jumped in right away.
“Oh, we’ll be cutting,” he said to an audience in Scranton. “We’re also going to have growth like you’ve never seen before.”
The move would represent a change of direction, as Trump has generally maintained that he does not intend to trim such programs. In a tweet last month, he wrote: “We will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.”
He has occasionally walked back similar comments on cutting entitlements. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, for example, the president was asked by a moderator how he would handle federal entitlement programs. He responded by saying “at some point they will be” on the chopping block. In a follow up question, when he was asked about Medicare, in particular, Trump said “we’re going to look” at it. In the following months, the president never attempted to enact cuts.
In the midst of the Democratic primary, Trump’s remarks could receive particular attention for another reason: the location in which he delivered them. Pennsylvania, one of the most consequential battlegrounds of the general election, is a top target for Democrats looking to defeat Trump in the state scored a victory against Hillary Clinton in 2016. It’s also the home state of former Vice President Joe Biden, a favorite punching bag of the president, who is surging as the 2020 frontrunner after a series of Super Tuesday wins.
Within minutes, Biden had already pounced. “Here’s the deal, folks: social security is on the ballot this year, and the choice couldn't be clearer: I’ll protect and expand it. Donald Trump will cut it and take it away,” the former vice president tweeted on top of a clipped video of the remarks that the Democratic National Committee was promoting.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a different approach, using the opportunity to ding Biden directly on a topic they have sparred over for months. “Here’s the deal: Joe Biden has repeatedly advocated for cuts to Social Security. I’ve fought my whole career to protect and expand it,” Sanders tweeted.