The false claim that Senate Republicans ‘plan to end Social Security and Medicare’


“Republicans plan to end Social Security and Medicare if they take back the Senate.”

— Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in a tweetSeptember 25th

As an election campaign enters its final weeks, year after year, both political parties rely on familiar themes to attack their opponents.

For Republicans, it’s crime and immigration. For Democrats, it’s social security and health care.

Murray, who has been in the Senate since 1993, is up against Republican Tiffany Smiley. Murray’s tweet is a succinct example of what we called “Mediscare” attacks — an attempt to warn seniors that Republicans will be stripping their hard-earned benefits. Indeed, the rest of the tweet stated, “Washington seniors who have spent their lives paying for these programs deserve better — and I will continue to fight to make sure they get it.”

Don’t worry, seniors: there is no such plan.

When Social Security was created in 1935, most Republican lawmakers supported it — but more Republicans than Democrats opposed it. When Medicare was founded in 1965, slightly more Republicans opposed the new program than were in favor of it, in contrast to the widespread support among Democrats.

Decades later, Democrats have never let Republicans forget this history. In campaign attacks, Democrats often conjure up nonexistent plans by Republicans to end or somehow undermine the programs. This tactic has certainly provided us with material to fact-check.

For example, in 2014, the United States House of Representatives Democrats falsely accused then-Congress candidate Martha McSally of seeking to “privatize” Social Security, even though a more modest version of President George W. Bush’s idea could not even get a committee vote years earlier. then Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. And in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden falsely claimed that President Donald Trump had a “plan” to deplete Social Security so that benefits would run out in three years.

In that same campaign, Biden accused Trump of wanting to cut Medicare benefits. Not so. In fact, in 2011, then-Vice President Biden accused House Republicans of proposing a plan to “eliminate medicare in the next 10 years.” That wasn’t true either.

Now comes the latest version of this campaign attack. But it’s just as empty as the last one.

The main source of this accusation is a document issued by Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate National Republican Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the Senate. In February, Scott released a 60-page “11-Point Plan to Save America” ​​with 128 proposals.

Buried on page 38, in a section on government restructuring, was one sentence: “All federal law expires in 5 years. If it’s worth complying with a law, Congress can re-enact it.”

“Sunset” is inside-the-Beltway slang. The Congressional Research Service provides this definition: “The sunset concept provides that programs and agencies are automatically terminated on a periodic basis, unless expressly extended by law.” So, in theory, even a venerable program like Social Security or Medicare would have to prove its worth every five years, although neither was specifically mentioned.

Scott’s plan was almost immediately rejected by most Senate Republicans. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was particularly tough.

“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that will raise taxes on half the American people and break Social Security and Medicare within five years,” McConnell told reporters on March 1. “That will not be part of a Republican Senate majority agenda.” (Scott also suggested demanding some sort of tax from every American, an idea that quickly found its way into Democratic attacks.)

Scott’s description offered little detail and had no proposed legislative language. He has consistently insisted that the document “represented Rick Scott’s policy ideas. It’s nobody else’s policy ideas.” Indeed, the plan was promulgated by Scott’s own campaign committee, not by any GOP or Senate committee, including the NRSC.

Scott has also denied wanting to end Social Security and Medicare.

During a March 27 interview with Fox News, Scott was asked if his plan “could potentially shut down programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.” He dismissed those as “democratic topics of discussion” and said his proposal was intended to draw attention to how to deal with potential funding shortfalls in the future.

“Nobody I know wants to shut down Medicare or Social Security, but what we do is we don’t even talk about it. Medicare will go bankrupt in four years. Social Security will go bust in 12 years,” Scott said. “I think we need to figure out how to keep those programs. Any program that we care about, we need to stop and take the time to keep those programs.”

(It is beyond the scope of this fact-checking, but Scott’s “bankrupt” language is exaggerated. Payments would continue, but at a lower level, according to the annual reports issued by the trust fund administrators of the programs. As we noted earlier, Medicare’s Part A fund has been on the cusp of going “broken” since 1970 — but always manages to stay afloat.)

Over the summer, another Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, put forward the idea of ​​funding Social Security and health care through the annual budget. At this point, expenses are automatically paid out as the programs award benefits to anyone who meets the qualification to have paid in the system. Johnson argued that continuing to spend on “autopilot” threatened the programs “bankrupt.”

A Johnson spokesperson said Johnson was not trying to eliminate the programs, but instead wanted to impose “tax discipline” to ensure they “remain solvent.” When asked about Johnson’s idea, a McConnell spokesperson pointed to the senator’s previous rejection of the Scott plan.

Finally. Murray’s staff cited GOP support for a budget amendment to the US Constitution as evidence for the tweet, which could theoretically mean cutting Social Security and health care spending. sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) told Fox in January that “if Republicans take control of the United States Senate [in 2022]I will do everything I can to make sure we have a vote on a budget amendment to the Constitution.”

Such a vote would be for political messages only. Graham acknowledged it would be difficult to get 67 votes in the Senate, let alone a two-thirds majority in the House — which, even if it passed, would still require ratification by three-quarters (38) of the states.

In a statement to the Fact Checker, the Murray campaign said: “One of Tiffany Smiley’s greatest champions is Rick Scott, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee and wrote the agenda proposing to scrap Social Security and health care. If Republicans like Smiley disagree, they should either call for Rick Scott to be removed as chairman or stop taking money from the NRSC, which she has refused to do. We are absolutely going to make sure that Tiffany Smiley is held accountable for how the Senate’s official Republican campaign agenda would harm Washington’s seniors.

Murray tweeted that if Senate Republicans gain control of the Senate, they plan to end Social Security and Medicare.

But as evidence, her staff can only point to statements by a few Republicans in the Senate who have received little support from their colleagues. The presumptive Republican Senate leader explicitly rejected the idea. In addition, in both cases, the senators insisted that they not try to eliminate the programs, but instead strengthen their financial underpinnings. Whether such actions would reduce benefits is open to debate, but it is not the same as ending the programs.

Murray would have been on more solid ground if she had mentioned Scott or Johnson by name and described their proposals, as Biden has done in campaign speeches. Instead, she condemns the entire caucus.

This is yet another example where Democrats are scrambling to invoke a nonexistent GOP plan related to Social Security and health care. Murray earns four Pinocchios.

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The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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