In the wake of relentless criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) late last week revised his proposal to bring all government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, up for a vote every five years.
In what appears to be a response to charges that his plan would necessarily threaten the integrity of the popular programs, Scott’s 12-step plan to “rescue America” now includes the following passage:
“All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years, with specific exceptions of Social Security, Medicare, national security, veterans benefits, and other essential services. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again. Note to President Biden, Sen. Schumer, and Sen. McConnell – As you know, this was never intended to apply to Social Security, Medicare, or the US Navy.”
Some analysts are seeing Scott’s move as a clear admission that both parties now see talking about cuts to Social Security and Medicare as politically damaging. “Senator Rick Scott of Florida finally recognized … what leading figures in his party had been telling him for a year: Most Republicans no longer wish to discuss cutting Social Security and Medicare as a way to balance the federal budget and bring down the soaring deb,” wrote The New York Times’s Carl Hulse.
Not all Republicans agree. Appearing on CNBC Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is reportedly mulling a presidential run, said that he believes the major entitlement programs must be part of the discussion, even if they are left aside during the current discussions over raising the federal debt limit.
“I’m glad to see the Republican majority saying we need to use this debt ceiling to start us back in the direction of fiscal discipline, but look, we all know where the real issue is in terms of long-term debt,” Pence said. “While I respect the speaker’s commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term.”
“We're looking at a debt crisis in this country over the next 25 years that is driven by entitlements, and nobody in Washington, D.C., wants to talk about it,” Pence added.
Another former high-ranking Republican echoed Pence on Wednesday. In an interview with The Washington Post, former House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump for placing cuts to Social Security and Medicare out of bounds.
“Biden and Trump — and I lump them in the same sentence — Biden and Trump are doing the opposite of leadership,” Ryan said. “They’re trying to scare people, and they’re playing political demagoguery with one of the most important issues facing our country this century.”
Never one to take criticism lightly, Trump, who has warned his fellow Republicans to stay away from entitlement cuts, responded quickly. “It is stunning a loser like Paul Ryan is doubling down on cutting Medicare and Social Security for elderly Americans,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “Any candidate who backs cutting Medicare and Social Security is doomed.”