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Democrats’ Strategy to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: Biden Declares “I’m Your Nightmare”

It was no surprise when President Joe Biden mentioned, in his 2023 State of the Union address, the false claim that Republicans wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare. The White House has been pushing the topic since before the midterm elections, when Senator Rick Scott released a plan featuring an unradical proposal that Congress should review the programs it funds every five years. Biden's speech was just the start of the Democrats' strategy of seizing on years of Republican efforts to restructure or decrease long-term spending on Social Security and Medicare.[0]

Scott clearly stated in his plan that “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”[1] This does not single out Medicare and Social Security, but these are programs that were established by federal legislation and would thus disappear under Scott’s proposal unless renewed every five years.[2] Biden responded to Scott's accusations of lying by citing a 2010 video of Lee saying that it is his “objective to phase out Social Security” and that “Medicare and Medicaid … need to be pulled up” by their roots.[3]

Biden went on to say, “I know that a lot of Republicans — their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.” He then rallied workers in the presidential battleground state of Florida, repeating several lines from his speech while focusing on the need for bipartisanship and the strength of labor unions.[3]

In 2021, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) – a body that acts as a think tank for the House GOP conference – presented a budget proposal for 2023 that would increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 and the eligibility age for Social Security from 65 to 69.[4] Other proposals include raising full retirement age for Social Security purposes, increasing the payroll tax rate for both Social Security and Medicare, and reducing benefits for everyone in accordance with the program’s funding.[5]

In August of 2022, Senator Ron Johnson called for changing the way Medicare and Social Security are funded, arguing that their funding should be voted on each year by Congress rather than being automatically renewed.[6] President Biden has since castigated Johnson for saying this, and has made it clear that he will not allow anyone to cut Social Security or Medicare.[7]

0. “Biden White House touts GOP “receipts” on Social Security cuts” Axios, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/02/14/biden-republicans-social-security-medicare

1. “In GOP-held Florida, Biden says no cuts for Social Security” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2023/02/09/president-biden-2024-florida-desantis-tampa-gop-social-security-medicare/stories/202302090126

2. “Republicans are angry at Joe Biden for accurately describing Rick Scott's Social Security plan.” Slate, 8 Feb. 2023, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/02/republicans-angry-joe-biden-rick-scott-social-security-plan.html

3. “Biden doubles down on points GOP heckled him for during State of Union” The Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/08/biden-wisconsin-speech-state-of-the-union-hecklers/

4. “Do Republicans Want to Cut Social Security and Medicare?” TIME, 10 Feb. 2023, https://time.com/6254832/republicans-sunset-social-security-medicare/

5. “What Biden’s not saying about Social Security and Medicare” Yahoo News, 13 Feb. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/what-bidens-not-saying-about-social-security-and-medicare-212121779.html

6. “US Sen. Ron Johnson stands by Medicare, Social Security remarks after being called out by President Joe Biden” Wisconsin Public Radio, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.wpr.org/us-sen-ron-johnson-stands-medicare-social-security-remarks-after-being-called-out-president-joe

7. “Fact check: Breaking down Biden's exchanges with Republican senators over Social Security and Medicare” CNN, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/10/politics/fact-check-biden-lee-scott-johnson-social-security-medicare/index.html