AC360° Digital Producer
(CNN) – Fresh off a victory Tuesday in her hotly contested and closely watched re-election bid, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, refused to identify specific cuts to the federal budget while, at the same time, criticizing what she called “over-the-top” spending for an upcoming presidential trip.
When asked in an interview that aired Wednesday on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° whether she would support cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Bachmann slammed the White House for the costs of President Obama’s forthcoming trip to India.
The Minnesota Republican called the trip’s costs “over-the-top.”
She added, “We have never seen this sort of an entourage going with the president before. And I think this is an example the massive overspending that we’ve seen – not only just in the last 2 years, really in the last four.”
Pressed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about whether she would support cuts to Social Security and Medicare proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, Bachmann said those entitlement programs need to be given a closer look.
“What we need to do is reform the system,” Bachmann told Cooper, before pointing out the Social Security program’s dire financial outlook in the short- and the long term.
She added, “For the sake of the most vulnerable people in the country, we have to reform Social Security so it’s solvent."
Later in the interview, in an apparent reference to Social Security and Medicare, Bachmann told Cooper that she would entertain changing the “eligibility levels.”
“We need to look at eligibility levels. Eligibility levels may be too high. We may need to cut them down by a percentage [point] or two,” Bachmann said.
Asked for comment about Bachmann’s criticism of the trip, the White House said in a written statement that the figures cited by the Republican lawmaker “have no basis in reality.”
White House spokesperson Amy Brundage added, “Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated.”
Bachmann’s comments come on the same day she formally announced her bid to join the House Republican leadership and become the chair of the House Republican Conference in the next Congress. She already has at least one rival for job. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is also seeking the number four spot in the GOP’s House leadership. Hensarling has already been endorsed by two powerful House Republican leaders.
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