Biden needles GOP on Social Security after State of the Union sparring

President Joe Biden speaks about his economic agenda at LIUNA Training Center, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in DeForest, Wis. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Biden on Wednesday needled congressional Republicans over their views on Medicare and Social Security, embracing the back-and-forth with lawmakers that highlighted his State of the Union address a day earlier.

“We had a spirited debate last night with my Republican friends. My Republican friends, they seemed shocked when I raised the plans of some of their members and their caucus to cut Social Security,” Biden told union workers in Madison, Wis., noting that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and other Republicans “stood up and said ‘liar, liar.’”

The president a night earlier had warned in his speech that some Republicans wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare and vowed he would veto any such effort, remarks that elicited boos and jeers from many GOP lawmakers in attendance who argued it was not true.

But Biden on Wednesday provided receipts. 

He read directly from a brochure of policy proposals released last year by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in which the senator proposed sunsetting government programs such as Social Security and Medicare every five years, forcing the federal government to reauthorize them.

Scott defended his plans in a Twitter thread earlier Wednesday, saying that he suggested “all federal legislation sunsets in 5 yrs. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” He disputed that his proposals amounted to cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Biden on Wednesday also noted that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) had previously talked about having the government reauthorize spending programs such as Social Security and Medicare on an annual basis.

And he pointed out that Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was among those looking bothered during Biden’s speech, had previously been recorded on video saying it was his objective to phase out Social Security.

“A lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Biden said. “Well, let me just say this. It’s your dream, but I’m going to — with my veto pen — make it a nightmare.”

The president’s remarks underscored how he was leaning into the fight with Republicans one day after certain GOP lawmakers attracted attention and criticism from even some in their own party for sparring with Biden during the State of the Union.

His comments in Wisconsin, a key battleground state in presidential elections, were part of a broader pitch that his agenda had helped the middle class and blue-collar workers and that he would push back against any GOP efforts to roll back benefits.

Biden noted the economy had added 12 million jobs since he took office when the coronavirus pandemic had wiped out employment gains from the previous administration. Inflation has been on the decline in recent months, and unemployment is at its lowest point in roughly 50 years.

But recent polling has shown many Americans feel the country is on the wrong track or are not comfortable with their financial situation, forcing Biden to balance his rhetoric between touting his achievements and acknowledging that there is more to be done.

“We’re building an economy where no one is gonna be left behind. My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten,” he said in Wisconsin.

Biden carried Wisconsin by roughly 21,000 votes in the 2020 election, flipping the state after former President Trump narrowly won it in 2016. Wisconsin figures to be a major swing state in 2024 again, and Biden’s travel there underscores how the White House is hoping to maintain support among workers in the state.

Wednesday marked the start of a post-State of the Union travel blitz for Biden administration officials. Vice President Harris was in Georgia on Wednesday, and she will head to Minnesota later in the week to promote the White House’s agenda.

Biden will head to Florida on Thursday, where Social Security and Medicare are again expected to be at the forefront of his remarks. The White House is embracing the fight over the issue, with spokesman Andrew Bates saying in a statement that Biden “clearly struck a nerve” with his State of the Union address.

Bates noted Republicans have for years made statements arguing for reforms or cuts to Social Security and Medicare and called on GOP lawmakers to share their plan for reducing spending.

In a statement, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, “Biden’s victory lap is out of touch with American families who are struggling to keep up with Biden’s failed economy.”

Updated at 3:12 p.m.

Tags Joe Biden Marjorie Taylor Greene medicare Mike Lee President Joe Biden Rick Scott social security Wisconsin

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