Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican leaders on the steps of the Capitol have said that Social Security and Medicare cuts are not off the table in their plans for America’s future. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP
WASHINGTON—A coalition of progressive groups, led by More Perfect Union and Social Security Works, launched an online petition and ad campaign against the House’s ruling Republicans’ plans to force Social Security and Medicare cuts on millions of seniors.
The Jan. 30 announcement urges constituents to call or e-mail their lawmakers, regardless of party, to sign a “no cuts” pledge. They’ve even set up an online list, so readers can check if their representatives have signed, or not.
The coalition says getting a majority of lawmakers to sign, including members of both parties, would spike Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to force cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other domestic programs in return for Republican votes to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
“To be clear, the debt ceiling legislation is not about new spending. It’s about paying our bills,” the coalition said Monday. “Failure to raise the debt limit will not only wreck the nation’s economy. It will wreck the economy of the whole world.”
The debt ceiling is a favorite Republican whipping boy and their caucus routinely and solidly opposes raising it, even though not doing so would force the U.S. to default on its debts—precipitating another worldwide economic catastrophe.
Indeed, the last time the Republicans held the debt ceiling hostage, then-Vice President Joe Biden (D), negotiated with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for a similar bargain—just on the other side of Capitol Hill—which Californian McCarthy holds out now. Both sides got half a loaf.
But before they drew back from the brink, major credit rating agencies all downgraded U.S. debt, driving up interest costs the government had to pay, even temporarily, by hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s a small indication of the chaos that could ensue if the U.S. defaults.
And in 2005, Republican President George W. Bush, flush from his 2004 re-election win, promised to “spend political capital” to privatize Social Security, which would benefit his Wall Street financier backers and hurt millions of retirees and workers. A ferocious and successful union-led campaign nixed his scheme.
“McCarthy announced he will hold hostage the must-pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling. So has (Texas) Sen. John Thune, the second ranking Republican leader” there, More Perfect Union said in its statement. “What is the ransom they are demanding? Cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
“The only way that Democrats can win this game of chicken is if they stay united and do not blink,” the groups said. “Standing with the overwhelming majority of the American people against all cuts to Social Security and Medicare should be the easiest promise any politician can make, so let’s make them promise.”
“It is critical for Democrats to stay united and stand their ground against this latest effort to gut Social Security and Medicare,” said Faiz Shakir, executive director of More Perfect Union.
“Standing firm should not be hard. Even Donald Trump knows cutting Social Security and Medicare is a loser for Republicans,” More Perfect Union adds.
News reports indicate however that one Senate Democrat—West Virginian Joe Manchin, of course—sees himself as a “go between” broker between McCarthy and the Senate’s majority Democrats, though not on cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
The labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans has been warning of the Republican threat to Social Security and Medicare for months, if not years.
“Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said on CNN’s State of the Union that Republicans don’t plan to alter benefits for current Social Security and Medicare recipients,” the alliance reported. Roy carefully said nothing about retaining benefits for future recipients.
The alliance then noted at least 127 of the House’s 222 Republicans agreed with a Republican Study Committee budget for this fiscal year—which began Oct. 1—”that will increase the eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, and reduce benefits for people 54 and younger by changing the Social Security benefit formula.”
That’s even though a CBS News/YouGov poll, the latest on the issue, found 71% of those surveyed said preserving Social Security and Medicare “should be a top priority” for lawmakers. That was second only to “fighting inflation” (76%) and ahead of a Republican code word, “fighting crime.” (63%)
Those numbers don’t stop the GOP. The Republicans’ Freedom Caucus—the right-wing extremists who forced the House to take 15 rollcalls to elect McCarthy—demanded the new Speaker commit to the cuts deal in exchange for the debt ceiling vote, and for their support for his Speakership bid.
“The House Republicans are making dangerous and unreasonable demands,” said Alliance President Robert Roach, a former Machinists’ Vice President. “We must not allow them to use our earned benefits as a bargaining chip.”
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