On The Money — Biden targets GOP, spars over Social Security
President Biden is keeping up the pressure on congressional Republicans over their views on Medicare and Social Security. We’ll also look at some of the proposals Republicans have eyed so far in debt limit talks, IRS plans for a free online tax-filing system by May, and more.
But first, if Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s viral State of The Union outfit reminded you of the Chinese spy balloon … you were onto something.
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Biden needles GOP after prime-time showdown
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.
- 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.
The Hill’s Brett Samuels has more here.
Scott pushes back: The Florida GOP senator defended his plans in a Twitter thread Wednesday, saying 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.
Scott last year rankled Republicans when he rolled out a 12-point policy agenda that included the sunset proposal, which Democrats promptly began using as ammunition in the midterms.
“This is clearly and obviously an idea aimed at dealing with all the crazy new laws our Congress has been passing of late,” Scott added, denying Biden’s claim Tuesday evening that Republicans want to end Social Security and Medicare.
💸 LEADING THE DAY
Here are the spending cuts Republicans have pitched in debt limit talks
President Biden ripped Republicans during his State of the Union address for efforts to use the nation’s debt ceiling as leverage to extract spending cuts from Democrats.
“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage, I get it, unless I agree to their economic plans,” Biden said Tuesday night as the White House gears up for a budget battle with House Republicans.
While Democrats have insisted lawmakers pass a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling without conditions, Republicans in both chambers have vowed to withhold support for an increase absent significant fiscal reform.
Here’s some of the proposals Republicans have pitched so far:
- Budget caps: Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has voiced support for limits on new discretionary funding, after he agreed to work toward a balanced budget in 10 years as part of the concessions he made with GOP rebels to secure the Speakership gavel last month.
- COVID-19 relief funds: Some Republicans are looking to take back unspent COVID-19 pandemic relief funds from state governments as they plot their next steps in talks. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee, told NBC News the idea “ought to be on the table” and “certainly could” fit in whatever legislative deal Republicans hope to strike with Democrats in the coming months.
- Work requirements: There has also been some early chatter around work requirements for safety net programs, specifically Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has said he’s been particularly making the pitch to other Republicans that involves work requirements for Medicaid recently.
Aris has the details here.
📑 FILING OVERHAUL
IRS to release report on free online tax-filing system in May
The IRS is aiming to release its potential plans for a free online tax-filing system by May, the agency announced Wednesday.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping economic reform bill signed by President Biden last year, ordered the IRS to conduct a study on how Americans could file their taxes online through a federal website or program without cost.
“The IRS is on track to deliver a direct file report to Congress in May 2023,” the agency said in a statement.
- The IRS said it’s working with nonprofit organization New America to develop the report on the potential new system, which could take the form of an app or web platform that allows people to file a tax return directly with the IRS.
- The IRS has faced pressure to overhaul the ways Americans file taxes and break the grip of major tax preparation companies on the tax-filing process.
- The IRS was allotted $15 million to study how to build a federal tax-filing platform in the legislation approved by Congress last year.
The Hill’s Tobias Burns has more here.
📊 DIFFERENT STROKES?
Public support soft on GOP debt limit demands
Republican lawmakers are lining up behind attaching spending cuts to legislation to raise the debt limit, but an overwhelming majority of Americans say the two issues should be handled separately — including 4 in 10 Republicans.
The lack of public support for insisting on spending cuts to raise the debt limit presents a challenge to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
- Polling shows a very different political context from when President Obama agreed to spending caps as part of a debt limit deal in 2011. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake noted in a recent interview that “the deficit is a lot less of a salient concern to voters,” adding that the debt doesn’t even rank as a top-tier priority for Republican voters.
- A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,003 adults found that 65 percent of Americans think the issues of debt payment and federal spending should be handled separately. Seventy-three percent of independents and 41 percent of Republicans said any debate over spending cuts and fiscal reforms should be handled apart from the debt limit discussion.
The Hill’s Alex Bolton and Aris dig into this here.
Good to Know
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) internal watchdog is estimating that a minimum of $191 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits may have been misspent.
DOL Inspector General Larry Turner said in testimony submitted Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee that “at least $191 billion in pandemic UI payments could have been improper payments, with a significant portion attributable to fraud.”
Another item we’re keeping an eye on:
- Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz, who led the coffee giant off and on for over two decades, was called to testify before a Senate panel by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as lawmakers probe the company’s compliance with federal labor laws.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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