Sanders, Biden campaigns ramp up attacks over Social Security

Sanders, Biden campaigns ramp up attacks over Social Security
© Getty Images

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNevada Democratic debate draws record-breaking 19.7 million viewers 'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate Ocasio-Cortez defends Warren against 'misogynist trope' MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate Sanders nabs endorsement from Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Poll: Sanders holds 7-point lead in crucial California primary MORE ramped up attacks on each other Tuesday night as part of an escalating battle over their records on Social Security. 

Sanders has hammered his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, arguing that he backed proposed cuts to Social Security during his years as a senator.

Biden said he was committed to not only maintaining but also strengthening the program and released an attack ad Tuesday dinging the Vermont Independent as “flat-out wrong.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Democrats, we can’t launch dishonest attacks against fellow Democrats. We have to beat Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE,” says a narrator in the nearly minutelong clip. “Now Bernie’s campaign has unleashed a barrage of negative attacks on Joe Biden that even accused Joe Biden of supporting ... cuts to Social Security.”

“Bernie’s campaign is not telling the truth. Joe Biden has repeatedly voted to save Social Security,” the narrator adds. “Bernie’s negative attacks won’t change the truth: Joe Biden is still the strongest Democrat to beat Donald Trump.” 

Sanders’s campaign fired back in a statement, suggesting Biden's “negative ad” was meant to muddy the waters over his record.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Joe Biden just released the first negative ad of the 2020 Democratic primary, and let’s be clear about why: he’s trying to distort his decades-long record of proposing and voting for cuts to Social Security benefits for millions of people. Joe Biden is no defender of Social Security, and a negative ad won’t help him outrun his record,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, said in a statement.

Sanders, whose campaign is centered around expanding the country’s social safety net and bolstering programs such as Social Security, fired the first volley in the latest back-and-forth, releasing a selectively edited video suggesting that Biden advocated for cutting Social Security while he was in the Senate.

While Biden was open to reforms that would have cut the program to try to balance the budget, as were other moderate Democrats, his campaign maintains Sanders’s clip was misleading and that he was in fact mocking GOP talking points about cutting the program.

The Sanders campaign doubled down after its statement rebuking Biden’s ad, releasing a clip of its own featuring archived Senate footage of Biden discussing cuts to Social Security.

“Let’s be honest, Joe. One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn’t. But don’t take it from me. Take it from you,” Sanders tweeted with the video.

The dispute is just one of multiple brawls among the top-tier primary candidates less than two weeks before the first nominating contest in Iowa.

Among the higher-profile feuds are the disagreement between Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren declines to disavow super PAC that supports her San Diego Union-Tribune endorses Buttigieg 'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate MORE (D-Mass.) over whether he told her a woman could not be elected president. 

While Sanders and Biden show no signs of letting up over their Social Security dispute, the two did appear eager to lay to rest controversy over an op-ed by a Sanders campaign surrogate published in The Guardian that accused Biden of corruption.

"Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate," Zephyr Teachout, a prominent progressive surrogate for Sanders and former New York gubernatorial candidate, wrote. "I know it seems crazy, but a lot of the voters we need — independents and people who might stay home — will look at Biden and Trump and say: 'They’re all dirty.'"

After the campaign initially circulated Teachout’s piece, staffers quickly took it down from its website, and Sanders apologized to Biden. 

"It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I'm sorry that that op-ed appeared," Sanders said.

“Thanks for acknowledging this, Bernie. These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary. Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president,” responded Biden.