More than 150 Dems launch caucus to expand Social Security benefits

More than 150 Democratic lawmakers on Thursday launched a group aimed at protecting and expanding social security benefits.

The group of progressive Democrats, known as the Expand Social Security Caucus, is being led by Senate co-chairs Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE (I-Vt.) and House co-chairs John Larson John Barry Larson Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: All eyes on Pelosi as calls for impeachment grow More Democrats threaten impeachment over Trump's dealings with Ukraine MORE (D-Conn.), Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellProgressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors MORE (D-Mich.) and Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), the group announced during a press conference Thursday morning.

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Sanders in a news release said the caucus was launched, in part, to disprove President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE's recent claim that Democrats are trying to slash Social Security.

"At a campaign rally in Montana last week, President Trump claimed Democrats want to 'destroy your Social Security,' and 'I’m going to save your Social Security,'" wrote Sanders, a longtime advocate for expanding the social safety net. "Meanwhile, the budget that Trump himself proposed earlier this year would have cut Social Security by some $72 billion over a 10-year period." 

"Well today, along with 17 of my Senate colleagues and more than 140 of my House colleagues, I am announcing the Expand Social Security Caucus to make sure seniors can retire with the dignity they deserve," Sanders said. 

The caucus was organized with assistance from Social Security Works, an advocacy nonprofit seeking to unite lawmakers behind expanding Social Security, according to the organization's communications director, Linda Benesch. 

"The goals of the caucus … [are] not to promote any one specific piece of legislation," Benesch told The Hill, noting there are multiple expansion bills Democrats have introduced in the House and Senate that could benefit from the caucus's support.

The caucus could kick into high gear if Democrats are able to retake the House in November's midterm elections. Larson, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, will likely hold hearings on expanding Social Security and could bring an expansion bill to the House floor if Democrats eke out a victory in the general election. 

Lawmakers emphasized their belief that Social Security is an insurance program rather than an "entitlement." 

Multiple Democrats noted that two-thirds of seniors receiving Social Security depend on the program for their livelihood. 

"Despite the success of Social Security, one out of every five senior citizens in our country is trying to make it on less than $13,5000 dollars per year," Sanders said during the conference. "That is a disgrace in the richest country in the world."

Warren said the caucus amounts to "wind in [Democrats'] sails" in the fight to preserve and expand the program.

"We are here to fight shoulder-to-shoulder for what is right because this truly is a measure of the kind of people we are and the kind of country we want to be," Warren said.

"We made a promise to people all during their working years — you contribute to Social Security, and when the time comes for you to retire, or if you become disabled, or if something happens to you and you leave a small child behind, we have built a way that all of us will work together and make sure that everyone has a basic protection in this country."