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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told "Axios on HBO" on Monday that he wishes reining in the national debt was a higher priority for President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to reduce the national debt and eliminate it entirely within eight years, though he also deemed himself "the king of debt" and said there were some priorities that required spending. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the deficit reached a record $3.1 trillion.

The big picture: Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a notorious deficit hawk while in Congress, said in February that the GOP "is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House ... Then Donald Trump became president, and we're a lot less interested as a party."

  • Cruz acknowledged that Republicans would likely "rediscover" their concern about debts and deficits, but insisted that it's always been a priority for him. He argued that while the 2017 Republican tax cut contributed significantly to the debt, pro-growth policies are also key to reducing deficits.
  • "You're touching into something that, as you know, I have raged against," Cruz told Axios' Jonathan Swan. "And I have raged against my own party not genuinely fighting to rein in spending and deficits and debt."

Key excerpt:

SWAN: "You belong to a party that has green-lit a historic expansion of deficits and debt. And it's just a plain fact."
CRUZ: "Do I wish that it was a higher priority for the president to rein in spending and the debt? Yes. He didn't run, principally on reining in spending and deficit and debt. That's not what he promised to do. We had real differences between it — and you know what, the voters made a decision."
SWAN: "I will remind you he promised to eliminate the national debt in eight years. He literally promised that."

Go deeper: Where Trump stands on economic promises

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Scoop: Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inside the GOP's infrastructure strategy

Sen. Roger Wicker. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Republican senators are hoping the White House will make some sort of counteroffer to their infrastructure proposal when they meet with President Biden on Thursday, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is a sign of how serious the negotiations are, they say. In advance of the meeting, some of the senators are already publicly signaling the areas in which they have flexibility.