Reid assures Sanders he won’t agree to cuts in Social Security

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has assured Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that he will not sign off on a deficit-reduction deal that cuts Social Security benefits. 

Reid told Sanders in a phone call Thursday that he will oppose cuts to Social Security benefits, which deficit hawks, including members of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, have pushed.

“I just spoke to him last night. He has been very strong on this issue and it gives me a great deal of comfort when we have the majority leader of the United States Senate saying very clearly that Social Security has nothing to do with deficit reduction and should not be part of the discussion with regard to deficit reduction,” said Sanders, founder of the Senate’s Defend Social Security Caucus.

“I think that is a huge step forward for those of us who are trying to protect Social Security beneficiaries and disabled veterans,” he said.

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Sanders is confident Reid will oppose proposals to use a new formula known as chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits. 

“I think that is a very important step forward in saying chained CPI is not going to be part of deficit reduction, so I am very comforted about that,” he said.

Using a new formula to calculate Social Security benefits has been part of deficit-reduction talks for the past two years.

The Moment of Truth Project chaired by former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) has argued that using chained CPI to calculate Social Security benefits would save $112 billion from 2012 to 2021. 

Sanders says using that formula would cut benefits substantially. He says seniors who are 65 years old would see their benefits cut by $560 a year by the time they turned 75 and by about $1,000 a year when they turn 85. 

“To my mind that is just not satisfactory,” he said.  

He said permanently disabled veterans would also suffer from such cuts. A disabled veteran who started receiving benefits at age 30 would see them cut by more than $1,300 by age 45.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said social safety-net programs would have to be trimmed in the near future. 

“We’re spending a trillion dollars more than what we take in. You can’t continue to do that. This is year two of a 25-year demographic bubble,” he said. “Ten thousand baby boomers like me retiring every day.

“It’s not like there’s money in Social Security or Medicare. This has to be dealt with,” he said. “Everything on the revenue side and the spending side has to be looked at.” 

Sanders and his allies say Social Security should be taken off the table because it does not contribute to the deficit. Congress has raided its trust fund for years to pay for a variety of other priorities.