Washington D.C. – Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been making dubious declarations in recent days that Social Security and Medicare cuts are ‘off the table’ in the MAGA-run U.S. House of Representatives. Such claims are unsurprising in the face of polls showing such cuts are the number one worry among voters. But a review of recent statements of House Republicans from government watchdog Accountable.US finds a growing number of House Republicans – more than enough to block legislative action – have openly threatened to use the debt ceiling as leverage to hold the economy hostage in exchange for substantial cuts to entitlements, including direct and deep benefit cuts by raising the retirement age for seniors.
At best, Kevin McCarthy is making promises he can’t keep as a critical mass of extreme MAGA House Republicans are demanding deep cuts to popular Social Security and Medicare benefits in exchange for not cratering the economy purposely with a manufactured debt default crisis. At worse, the Speaker is intentionally deceiving the public of the MAGA majority’s intent of ending the guarantee of Social and Medicare benefits earned through a lifetime of hard work – finishing a job previous Republican-led Congresses have tried numerous times before. Unfortunately for Speaker McCarthy, too many of his MAGA colleagues have said the quiet part out loud: that earned benefits are very much on the chopping block.
There’s no denying MAGA extremists in Congress are eager to use the debt they exacerbated with tax breaks for wealthy corporations as an excuse to threaten the health and retirement security of millions of hard-working Americans. The MAGA majority’s economic plan is clear: deep cuts to earned benefits for seniors and working people while protecting or even expanding wasteful tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations. MAGA extremists want to break the promise of guaranteed benefits that have kept generations of seniors out of poverty rather than asking greedy corporations and wealthy donors to pay their fair share. No matter how they spin it, raising the retirement age for seniors amounts to devastating and deep benefit cuts. Why should seniors, including those who do physically demanding jobs, be forced to tough it out for a few more years before retirement so wealthy special interests can keep their tax giveaways?"
Accountable.US’ Director of Economic Security and Corporate Power, Liz Zelnick
- The Republican Study Committee, representing over 170 members of the House Republican Caucus, released a proposed budget in June 2022 calling for an increase in the eligibility age of Medicare and Social Security and additional means testing for benefits, changes that have been criticized as disproportionately impacting communities of color, increasing the amount 3.3 million retirees would pay each year in premiums, and fundamentally undermining Medicare’s “universality and integrity.”
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) himself suggested Republicans would use a debt limit deadline as “leverage to spending cuts,” including potential cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
- Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)––current Way and Means Chair and former Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee––suggested Republicans would use a debt limit deal to force changes to Social Security and Medicare, calling it “‘clearly one of those tools that Republicans — that a Republican-controlled Congress — will use to make sure that we do everything we can to make this economy strong.’”
- Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) revealed Republicans’ “‘main focus’” in the new Congress has to be non discretionary entitlement programs and suggested raising the eligibility age of Social Security.
- Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX)––Current Chairman of the House Budget Committee––indicated Republicans would fight for an increase to the Medicare and Social Security eligibility age in future budget deals after previously stating in 2016 that politicians don’t have the “courage” to talk about cuts to the programs.
- Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) voiced support for additional means testing on Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, stating “‘we should ensure that we keep the promises that were made to the people who really need it’” and that “‘some sort of means-testing potentially would help to ensure that we can do that.’”
- Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK)––new chair of the Republican Study Committee––joined House Republicans in wanting to use the debt limit deadline to “enact fiscally conservative legislation,” calling it “obviously a leverage point.’” Hern later admitted “‘we have no choice but to make hard decisions’” when it comes to budget cuts and that “‘everybody has to look at everything.’”
Additional House Republicans have stated that “everything has to be on the table” when it comes to budget cuts:
- Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) admitted Republicans would “‘get thrown out of office [if] we told the truth’ about their party’s plans for Social Security” as he discussed the difficulty in actually cutting Social Security.
- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) revealed in an interview with Fox News that “everything has to be on the table” when it comes to budget cuts.
- House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) admitted that instead of going after defense spending “it’s the domestic spending that we’re going to go after.”
- Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) claimed that Republicans won’t “touch” current beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare, while admitting that Republicans will have to “‘figur[e] out how we’re going to make those work.’”
- Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) suggested the retirement age should be increased, claiming his constituents told him “they actually want to work longer,” and that “if people want to work longer, maybe you need to give them an incentive to do it.”
- Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) stated he opposed a balanced budget off the “‘backs of our troops and our military,’” and that “‘if we really want to talk about the debt and spending, it’s the entitlement programs.’”