After Doug Jones, we need to elect more members who will secure Social Security

After Doug Jones, we need to elect more members who will secure Social Security
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Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama was not only a repudiation of reprehensible behavior, it was an encouraging harbinger for programs that working Americans depend on.

Unfortunately, Senator-elect Jones likely won’t be seated before the final vote on the Trump/GOP tax scheme. But come January, he will be one more crucial vote to protect our nation’s social safety net and earned benefits, which congressional leaders promise to target in 2018.

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It may have gotten lost in the media frenzy surrounding Roy Moore, but Jones supports federal benefits for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the working class. He champions Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — and endorses the bipartisan legislation from Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills MORE (D-Wash.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWays and Means Committee announces rival surprise medical billing fix Impeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (R-Tenn.) to stabilize ObamaCare insurance markets. The Jones campaign issued a statement that he “opposes proposals that would make health care more expensive for Alabamians, jeopardize their coverage or slash Medicare for seniors.”

 

In fact, Jones drew a stark contrast with Moore on these programs during the campaign. “Roy Moore has consistently said he wants the government out of healthcare,” Jones told a campaign crowd. “Well, let me tell you, that means no Medicare. That means no Medicaid."

Jones’s public statements indicate that he will defend income security for seniors and the disabled, too. He implored his fellow Alabamians to “embrace, not run away from ideals that go back to Franklin Roosevelt and Social Security.”

Having a new protector of safety net and social insurance programs in the Senate is a welcome, if perhaps unanticipated, development — and it comes at a particularly opportune moment. With the scribbled ink barely dry on the Senate GOP’s tax plan, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea MORE vowed to “reform” Social Security and Medicare in 2018.

Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (D-Fla.) explained that these programs had to be “restructured” to help close the gaping hole in the debt that the GOP tax bill will create.

Make no mistake: “reform” and “restructure” are code words for cut and privatize — asking beneficiaries to bear the full burden of keeping these programs financially sound for the future when there are modest and manageable alternatives for achieving the same goal.

Americans who heard President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE pledge “not to touch” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during the campaign must surely question whether he can be trusted to defend them. His own 2018 spending plan calls for over $60 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance.

He supports the GOP tax bill which swells the federal debt, providing an excuse to slash earned benefits. He endorsed the GOP budget resolution calling for nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare and more than $1 trillion to Medicaid.

After years of dreaming about cutting benefits for the poor, elderly, and disabled, Congressional leaders finally have the power to do so — despite the fact that polls show the public overwhelmingly supports these programs and doesn’t want to see them slashed. Public support for Social Security and Medicare cuts across party lines. That puts Senator-elect Jones squarely in the mainstream of American public opinion.

The best opportunity to mitigate any potential harm to our society’s most vulnerable members is to continue electing people like Doug Jones to Congress. His victory — like the races in Virginia, New Jersey, and across the country last month — proves that the coalition of voters who agree that there should be a social safety net (not to mention a sense of compassion and decency in Congress) can and will show up when the stakes are clear.

That’s something that would truly benefit voters of all political stripes, not just in Alabama, but across the nation.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization which promotes the financial security, health, and well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans.