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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.

2 hours ago - Health

Axios AM Deep Dive: Covid forever

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was 563 days ago that the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens, looks at our Covid future.

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court judge on Friday temporarily blocked New York City schools from enforcing a vaccine mandate for school employees, days before it was set to take effect, AP reports.

Driving the news: The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system.