Democrats look to squeeze GOP on Medicare, Social Security

Democrats are seeking to go on the offense against Republicans over past calls to slash Medicare and Social Security cuts, with President Biden leading the charge ahead of announcing his reelection campaign. 

Biden drew the ire of Republicans in the House chamber at his State of the Union address on Tuesday when he accused them of working to target the entitlement programs in potential spending cuts. Biden, who is preparing to launch his 2024 campaign, continued the line of attack during visits to Wisconsin and Florida this week.

The choice of states is significant, given they are represented by Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who are both at the center of the debate. But it also reflects how Biden hopes to make the message, which was used by Democrats in 2022, a key part of his reelection plan. 

“The very idea the senator from Florida wants to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every five years, I find to be somewhat outrageous. So outrageous that you might not even believe it,” Biden told an audience at the University of Tampa on Thursday. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee echoed Biden’s message in a tweet during the State of the Union on Tuesday, accusing Senate Republicans of being “dead set on putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.” 

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) slammed the GOP’s “radical agenda.”

“No matter how much they try to lie about their plans, Republicans are going to be held accountable for their dangerous and harmful threats to cut Social Security and Medicare from millions of Americans,” said Nebeyatt Betre, a spokesperson for the DCCC.

And it’s not just congressional Republicans who are being hit with the line of attack. On Friday, the Florida Democratic Party highlighted coverage of potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and their past stances on reforming social security. 

“Every election comes down to a choice,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. “And this presidential election, whenever it officially kicks off, will certainly be a choice between us and them.” 

“They’re differentiating us versus the Republicans and why Republicans are trying to run full-steam backward from a policy position that a lot of them flirted with and embraced at some point during the midterm election,” he added. 

The line of attack is similar to one used by Democrats in 2022, who tied Republicans up and down the ballot to Scott’s plan to sunset all federal programs after five years. 

But Republicans, including Scott, hit back at the attack from Biden and Democrats this week.

On Thursday, Scott, who is running for reelection in 2024, challenged Biden to a debate on the matter. And earlier this week, Scott rolled out an ad calling on Biden to resign in the wake of the attacks. 

“It’s telling that Joe Biden used his State of the Union speech to lie about my plan. If Biden had a single accomplishment to speak of, he wouldn’t have to lie about me,” Scott said in a statement this week. “These lies aren’t going to work in the Sunshine State. I’m excited for the opportunity to remind Floridians that Joe Biden is a liar and tax cheat.”

Scott also pointed to a 1975 bill from then-Sen. Biden that would have sunset federal programs between four and six years after passage. Other Republicans have accused the president of lying and using the issue to campaign ahead of his reelection bid. 

“These are desperate lies from the President. House Republicans will continue pursuing reasonable limitations to rein in Democrats’ reckless spending – just like every family in America would do to manage their budget,” said Will Reinert, press secretary at the National Republican Congressional Committee. 

However, the issue is causing divisions among Republicans, many of whom have distanced themselves from Scott’s plan. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Kentucky radio host Terry Meiners on Thursday that the idea of sunsetting Medicare and Social Security is not the GOP plan. 

“Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy said Social Security and Medicare are not to be touched and I’ve said the same,” McConnell said. “And I think we’re in a more authoritative position to state what the position of the party is than any single senator.”

The use of possible cuts to Medicare and Social Security could prove to be a political tool to appeal to voters outside of the Democratic Party. A YouGov poll released this week found that 89 percent of Americans who receive Social Security benefits have a favorable view of the program while 84 percent of respondents said the same about Medicare. Additionally, the poll found that 57 percent of respondents said that Social Security should be given more funding. 

Republicans and Democrats agree that it’s likely too early to tell whether Social Security and Medicare will be the main issue in 2024, and it’s still debatable how much of an impact it had in 2022. 

“I think it was a buffet of things that gave us the outcome of the last election,” Seawright said. “But I think the common denominator in all of that was people voted against what they believe the Republican Party stood for from both a political and policy perspective.” 

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