sen. Joe Manchin III said on Thursday that he wants to work with Republicans in the next congress to keep entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from failing, while also tackling the country’s “crippling debt.”
The moderate West Virginia Democrat’s comments came amid vows by Republicans — if they win the House majority — to demand changes to such programs in exchange for lifting the country’s debt ceiling next year.
“We cannot live with this crippling debt,” said Mr. Manchin during a virtual appearance at the Fortune CEO Initiative. “If we don’t look at the trust funds that are going out of business, whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Highway, all those [facing] huge problems right now, if we don’t get to grips with the way we face the financial challenges of this country, we will all pay a price we can’t afford.”
A report from Social Security administrators in June showed an end date of 2035, at which time benefits should be cut unless Congress somehow acts to restructure the program.
President Biden has vowed to protect such safety net programs, making it a mainstay of his campaign messages in the final days before Tuesday’s midterm elections. Other Democrats have done the same in an effort to get voters excited.
However, Mr. Biden and Democrats have also made false or misleading claims that Republicans want an end to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans have spoken openly about changing rights programs in the context of inflated government spending, for example by requiring them to be re-approved every few years, but they have not suggested reducing or completely eliminating such safety nets.
“They’re coming after your Social Security and health care, and they’re saying it out loud,” Mr Biden said at a campaign rally last month. “I promise you, I’ll protect Social Security. I will protect Medicare. I will protect you.”
Mr Biden has also bragged — even going so far as to take credit — of the record cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients. The White House on Wednesday deleted a tweet that falsely credited the president while providing no context that the surge was due to rising inflation.
Democrats hope to raise the debt ceiling after the midterms but before the next Congress to avoid a new year confrontation with Republicans.