The Administration

Trump, Sanders, Schumer battle cuts to Medicare, Social Security

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One of the time-honored dreams of Republicans in Congress has been to cut historically Democratic programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Many Republicans would simply cut benefits for these programs and hurt the poor and middle-class citizens they serve, a position that has repeatedly damaged GOP candidates in national elections over many years.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader who leads Democrats in the Senate, has vowed to vehemently and aggressively oppose GOP attacks against these economically crucial and politically popular programs.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with other progressive voices in the Senate and House, has similarly vowed to oppose and defeat these ill-considered GOP attacks against these programs that are sacrosanct for liberals, Democrats and the few moderate Republicans who remain in Congress.

It now appears that President-elect Donald Trump will side with Schumer, Sanders and Democrats in both houses of Congress in opposing GOP plans to attack and cut these vital entitlement programs.

As The Hill and others reported, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told the CBS Sunday talk show “Face the Nation” that Trump promised during the campaign to not meddle with Social Security and Medicare and intends to keep that promise.

The story in The Hill about the Priebus comments supporting entitlement programs included an earlier quote from Trump that will warm the hearts of liberals and put fear in the hearts of some conservatives and Republicans who want to cut entitlement programs and will be running in tough races in the 2018 midterm elections.

{mosads}Trump had indeed said the following to The Daily Signal: “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”

Sanders, Schumer and other Democrats will surely call on Trump to announce that he will veto any legislation that passes the Republican House and Republican Senate. Trump will have no choice except to state he will veto any such legislation from Congress, or that he will not veto such legislation, which would be an admission that his promises to protect these programs during the campaign became null, void and false once Congress ratified the Electoral College vote for president.

Trump will probably stick with his election year promises to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for several reasons.

First, Trump has a long history of supporting entitlement programs, and at times has spoken favorably about what seemed to be single-payer healthcare, using words that sounded like Sanders today.

Second, Trump is well aware that GOP attempts to cut these programs could powerfully backfire in the 2018 midterm elections, because these are highly popular and effective programs.

Democrats will gleefully note, as I do here, that Trump during the campaign specifically separated himself from other Republicans. When he told Daily Signal that he would not support cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “like every other Republican,” he was allying himself with liberal leaders such as Sanders and Democratic leaders such as Schumer against current Republican leaders and members of Congress who want to enact the cuts that Sanders, Schumer and other Democrats firmly oppose.

One can easily imagine Democratic candidates running against Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms using Trump’s words in their campaign ads — alongside the words of Sanders and other prominent liberals — opposing any Republican who tries to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Liberals and Democrats have the high ground on these matters, and while they will welcome any support from Trump against the GOP Congress, Sanders and other progressives might also be asking Trump this question:

“If you like Medicare so much, why don’t you support our plan to create Medicare for all?”

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Donald Trump

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