Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the number two House Republican, defended his party’s approach to Medicare and Social Security, which has become a campaign issue ahead of U.S. midterm elections in November.
It’s a mischaracterization to say the GOP plans to “cut” the programs, Scalise said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“That is not something we have proposed,” he said. “We have proposed strengthening and shoring up Medicare and Social Security.”
He noted that under current law, the trust funds of both programs will become insolvent and be forced to cut benefits. Medicare faces insolvency in 2028 and Social Security in 2035 according to the trustees of the programs.
Scalise is a member of largest House GOP caucus, the Republican Study Committee, which has proposed changes that would result in lower benefits for some future recipients. Scalise’s office said in an email he hasn’t specifically signed on to the RSC plan, however. His office pointed to the GOP’s Commitment to America, supported by the entire Republican caucus, which says only that the party plans to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”
To avoid insolvency in the programs, spending would need to be cut, revenue raised or some combination of the two.
The RSC proposal would gradually raise the eligibility ages for both programs and slow the growth of benefits for higher earners in Social Security. Medicare would transition to a new model where seniors would receive premium subsidies to buy a government run public option or privately run insurance.
Some Democrats have proposed raising payroll taxes on the wealthy to address the insolvency threat, without making eligibility or benefit growth changes.
In interviews with Bloomberg Government this month, leading Republicans said they are considering leveraging the need to raise the US debt ceiling next year to demand changes to Medicare and Social Security solvency.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., renewed the Democrats’ line of attack on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“Are you going to support a party that wants to give more tax breaks to the rich, cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or are you going to support people prepared to stand up for working people?” the Vermont senator said.
“Now I’m not here to tell you that the Democrats are perfect — believe me, they are not,” he said. “But on virtually all of the issues including climate change, the choice is pretty clear.”
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