What Republicans have actually said about cuts to Social Security and Medicare
President Biden drew a raucous response from Republicans during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night when he said some GOP lawmakers want to cut Social Security and Medicare.
“Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I’ll give you a copy of the proposal,” he said as Republican lawmakers jeered.
Biden and Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Republicans of attempting to target Medicare and Social Security in potential spending cuts that they hope to tie to a debt ceiling increase. However, Republicans have denied that the entitlement programs are at risk.
But some prominent Republicans have previously suggested cuts to the programs. Here’s what they actually said about cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare.
Sen. Rick Scott’s plan for all federal legislation to sunset after five years is at the center of the debate on Social Security and Medicare after President Biden’s State of the Union. (Greg Nash)
At the center of the current debate over the federal entitlement programs is an 11-point plan released by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) last February, which called for all federal legislation to sunset after five years as part of an effort to curb government spending.
“All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” the document said.
This would require Congress to renew Social Security and Medicare every five years. Scott’s proposal also called for a yearly report from Congress “telling the public what they plan to do when Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt.”
However, the Florida Republican has maintained that his proposal would not cut Social Security and Medicare, as Democrats have suggested. On Tuesday night, Scott dismissed Biden’s accusations as a “dishonest move” by a “very confused president.”
“I will not be intimidated by Joe Biden twisting my words,” he added.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has said a conversation about reforming Social Security needs to happen. (Greg Nash)
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has indicated that he is considering a bid for the presidency in 2024, said last week that a conversation needs to be had about reforming Social Security.
“There are modest reforms in entitlements that can be done without disadvantaging anybody at the point of the need,” Pence said, noting that a substantial portion of federal spending goes toward entitlement programs.
Pence suggested that the U.S. government allow young Americans to put part of their Social Security withholdings into a private savings account overseen by the government, which could potentially generate more than current Social Security accounts.
Sen. Mike Lee’s views on Social Security have been called into question since he initially called for eliminating the entitlement program in 2010. (AP)
When Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) initially ran for Senate in 2010, he called for the complete elimination of Social Security.
“It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it,” Lee said at a campaign event in 2010, adding, “There’s going to be growing pains associated with doing this. We can’t do it all at once.”
However, the Utah Republican appears to have since tempered his views on entitlement programs.
“I don’t recall ever having advocated for dismantling those — that’s sensitive stuff,” he said in an October interview with the Daily Herald.
“I think, we oughta look to, after we get it solvent, look to the idea of allowing people, if they want to, to at least identify some portion of their social security payments to go into a private account,” he added, appearing to promote a similar idea to Pence.
Sen. Ron Johnson has also suggested renewing entitlement programs, but on an annual basis. (Greg Nash)
Similar to Scott, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has suggested that Congress regularly renew the entitlement programs. However, Johnson has proposed that it be done on an annual basis.
“I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been here that we should transfer everything, put everything on budget so we have to consider it if every year. I’ve said that consistently, it’s nothing new,” Johnson told “The Regular Joe Show” podcast last August.
“I want to save it; I want to fix it. Right now, we’re whistling past the graveyard,” he added.
Republican Study Committee
The Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, has called for increasing the threshold for Medicare to 67 years of age and Social Security to 70 years of age in an effort to avoid the programs’ trust funds from becoming insolvent, per its fiscal 2023 budget. The group includes more than 150 Republican members of the House, the majority of the GOP caucus.
Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested raising the qualifying age for Social Security and Medicare. (AP)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested in a debate in June that a bipartisan compromise on the issue will likely mean that “people like me are going to have to take a little less and pay a little more in.”
Like the Republican Study Committee, he also suggested adjusting the qualifying age for Social Security and Medicare upward.
“Let’s do something like [former Sen.] Ted Kennedy [D-Mass.] would do: Get Republicans and Democrats to find a way — like the Gang of Six, the Simpson-Bowles plan,” Graham said, referring to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that was created in 2010 with a focus on deficit reduction.
“We’re going to have to adjust the age one more time like Ronald Reagan and Tip — Tip O’Neil did,” he added, referring to the former Republican president and former Democratic House Speaker. “There is a bipartisan way forward.“
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