Whether it is a coincidence or was planned knowing the Social Security Trustee’s report would be released last week, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday on Social Security. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have already outlined disagreements on how to address the programs’ solvency, and whether it is necessary to do so in the near term.
TSCL has endorsed 8 bills to strengthen and improve Social Security that have been introduced in Congress, 7 of which were authored by Democrats and 1 which was authored by a Republican.
The hearings and the debate come at a time when key Republicans are starting to grapple with questions about what the party will do regarding Social Security should they win back the majority in one or both houses of Congress in November.
Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is also the Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, has released his legislative plan in anticipation of a Republican Senate majority next year. It includes a provision that would require all federal programs to expire after just five years—and he did not exempt Social Security or Medicare from that provision.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell responded to the Scott plan by saying, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
However, McConnell, who would presumably be the new majority leader in a Republican-led Senate, has refused to say what Republicans would do if they regain the Senate majority, saying only that he would let us know if they do win the majority.
Last February, House Republicans invited former Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to testify at a House Budget Committee. Mulvaney recommended that lawmakers attach fiscally conservative measures to the next debt limit measure, which could occur later this year or in early 2023. He specifically recommended considering changes to Social Security, saying it is “not politically easy, but it’s mathematically easy.”
And Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), who is seeking the top Republican spot on the House Budget Committee has said addressing entitlement spending needs to be a priority for Republicans.
Carter said in an interview, “We’ve got to do something about Social Security and Medicare, and nobody wants to do that. And you know, the challenge is, how do you get the members of Congress, how do you get their attention to let them know how serious this is?”
Unfortunately, in the past when Republicans have talked about “doing something about entitlements,” they have usually meant doing something to reduce benefits.
While there are Republicans in Congress who support strengthening Social Security, we wonder if there are enough to overcome those who want to cut benefits as the way to deal with the issue.
TSCL will be watching these developments very closely in the coming weeks and months and we will continue our fight to strengthen and improve Social Security and to stop any measures that would cut benefits for seniors.