President Joe Biden had a memorable YouTube moment during his State of the Union address Tuesday night when he got into an ad-libbed exchange with lawmakers over Social Security, eventually promising that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security … I will stop them.”
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Biden brought up the topic about midway in his speech, saying that “instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset.”
That comment brought a shake of the head from Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, sitting behind Biden, and jeers from GOP House and Senate members. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) shouted “liar” a few times.
This is when Biden went off-script, saying “anybody who doubts it, contact my office, I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.” The president was quick to add that not all Republicans support sunsetting Social Security and Medicare, but “it’s being proposed by some of you.”
The sunset comment refers to a proposal by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to sunset Medicare and Social Security in five years, which would allow Congress to either pare the programs down or completely gut them.
Other Republicans have proposed cutting monthly benefits and/or raising the full retirement age to deal with a funding shortfall that will occur next decade when the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund runs out of money. However, the vast majority of Social Security is funded by payroll taxes, and that will be the case for decades in the future.
In fairness, many Republicans publicly oppose cutting Social Security. McCarthy himself recently said the GOP “won’t touch Medicare or Social Security” in current debt-ceiling negotiations.
As CNN reported, Biden skipped over remarks he had intended to make during his SOTU speech, one of which was, “Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history. I won’t let that happen.”
Instead of saying those lines, Biden said the following, according to a New York Times transcript of the speech: “I’m glad to see — no, I tell you, I enjoy conversion … Look, folks, the idea is that we’re not going to be moved into being threatened to default on the debt if we don’t respond. So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? … All right. We got unanimity.”
Those comments brought a few chuckles from the crowd. The president then went on to call Social Security and Medicare “a lifeline for millions of seniors” who have been paying into the programs since they started working.
“So tonight, let’s all agree — and we apparently are — let’s stand up for seniors,” Biden added. “Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare. Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned it. And if anyone tries to cut Social Security, which apparently no one’s going to do, and if anyone tries to cut Medicare, I’ll stop them. I’ll veto it.”
The president didn’t offer much in the way of specific plans for the programs other than saying that he intends to extend the Medicare Trust Fund by at least two decades. He also mentioned that he plans to lower the federal deficit by $2 trillion, mainly by “making sure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.”
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“Look, here’s the deal,” Biden said. “They’re not just taking advantage of the tax code. They’re taking advantage of you, the American consumer.”
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