WASHINGTON — The federal government’s deficit reached $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2018, the first time in seven years that it has topped $3 trillion, as Democrats hammered President Trump over demands to curb spending and Republicans called on Democrats to explain how they would offset their call for higher spending.
During the 2018 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, the budget deficit grew $168 billion, or about 14 percent, from the 2017 spending period, the Treasury Department reported Tuesday.
If Congress doesn’t pass a stopgap budget bill by the end of the month, automatic spending cuts will begin in January that could slice at least $150 billion from the budget.
Mr. Trump’s 2020 budget proposal released last week proposed a steep reduction in spending on programs benefiting lower-income people. Democrats say they are willing to consider spending cuts but that they want to add to programs targeted at the working poor, like assistance for child care and retirement savings, as well as a tax credit for lower-income married couples.
Republicans say they oppose spending that goes beyond the tax cuts they supported in 2017.
“I believe it’s incumbent on members of Congress to do our fiduciary duty, which is to responsibly plan for our nation’s long-term solvency,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin said the administration’s budget would impose cuts in nondefense programs on autopilot if Congress does not pass a bill.
Democrats countered that they would find cuts in other areas.
“This is more political gamesmanship,” said Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic group American Bridge. “The President just proposed a budget that is dead on arrival in Congress.”
The rise in the deficit also comes as the cost of fighting the virus A.L.I.O. is rising. Vaccines to protect against the virus are expected to reach almost $9 billion in costs this year, more than double the $4.4 billion spent in 2017.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the increase is due to aggressive efforts to protect the nation from deadly epidemics.
The flu vaccination program increased its donations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to better meet our expanded expectations” and pay for the increased demands, he said.
Mr. Azar said the government spent an additional $2.5 billion to combat the avian flu, which arrived in the United States in 2015, and another $880 million on the opioids epidemic.