As Democrats led by President Joe Biden continue to gleefully attack Republicans for proposals both new and old that would cut or otherwise undermine Social Security and Medicare, GOP leaders have run quickly in the other direction, loudly insisting they have no plans to cut either of those wildly popular programs, even if both are facing severe fiscal challenges in the years ahead – a point brought home by a particularly dire budgetary analysis published by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this week.
Some Republicans, though, don’t seem to be following the path laid down by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has been openly critical of a plan offered by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) that would require all federal programs to be renewed every five years, subjecting Social Security and Medicare to the whims of lawmakers on a regular basis. “Let me say one more time,” McConnell told reporters this week, “there is no agenda on the part of Senate Republicans to revisit Medicare or Social Security.”
McConnell no doubt wishes Scott and his supporters would stop talking about the plan, which threatens to damage the GOP politically, raising the suspicion among millions of crucial elderly voters that Republican lawmakers may not have their best interests at heart. McConnell even took a shot at his colleague, noting that “it will be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own re-election in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any other state in America.”
A new flareup emerged Wednesday as the Club for Growth – a conservative organization that advocates for tax cuts, balanced budgets and entitlement reform – offered its endorsement of Scott in his 2024 bid for reelection – an endorsement that specifically targets McConnell.
“While other Republicans have caved to massive tax-and-spend packages that have strained our economy, Rick Scott has consistently championed small government solutions centered around fiscal responsibility, and because of that he’s faced the unfounded and false attacks of liberal Democrats like President Biden and even establishment Republicans like Leader McConnell,” the head of the Club for Growth told Politico.
As if that bit of internecine warfare didn’t offer enough tension for everyone in conservative circles, another giant of the Republican Party waded into the dispute Wednesday. Former president Donald Trump – who has warned Republicans to stay away from cuts to popular social welfare programs – made his opposition to Scott’s proposal clear. “Be careful, Rick, and most importantly fight for Social Security and Medicare,” Trump said on his personal social media platform. “THERE WILL BE NO CUTS.”
Noting that Trump and McConnell have long been at loggerheads, Politico’s Ryan Lizza, Rachael Bade and Eugene Daniels tried to make sense of the situation, in which the former president seemed to be allying himself with one of his enemies. “Trump hates McConnell, but likes his position on Social Security and Medicare,” they wrote Thursday. “Trump likes Scott, but hates his position on Social Security and Medicare. Trump hates the Club for Growth, and hates the group’s position on Social Security and Medicare.”
For his part, Scott said that the resistance he is running into from Republican powers that be won’t dissuade him from talking about his plan for significant spending cuts. “I am never going to be part of the establishment,” he told The New York Times’s Carl Hulse. “I am going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I am going to run my race. I’ve won three hard races. I will win again.”