Democrats have spent much of the year warning voters that Republicans will seek cuts to Social Security and Medicare if put in power, and an amazing number of GOP officials and candidates have bolstered the claims. What’s new this week, however, is Republicans signaling how they intend to pursue their goal.
It was two weeks ago when President Joe Biden warned the public that Social Security and Medicare would end up on “the chopping block” if Republicans have their way, and the rhetoric hardly seemed outlandish. In recent months, there’s been no shortage of prominent GOP voices — from Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson to New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc to Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia — who’ve bolstered Biden’s claims.
But for many voters, the warnings may not seem overly alarming. After all, there’s a Democratic White House. Even if Republicans enjoyed congressional majorities, and they were somehow able to pass a bill to cut Medicare and Social Security, the president would veto it and the public would be protected. So there’s no real cause for concern, right?
Wrong. Bloomberg Government published a striking report yesterday sketching out GOP officials’ plans to work around a veto threat and force Biden to accept cuts to the popular social insurance programs.
Social Security and Medicare eligibility changes, spending caps, and safety-net work requirements are among the top priorities for key House Republicans who want to use next year’s debt-limit deadline to extract concessions from Democrats. The four Republicans interested in serving as House Budget Committee chairman in the next Congress said in interviews that next year’s deadline to raise or suspend the debt ceiling is a point of leverage if their party can win control of the House in the November midterm elections.
In theory, GOP lawmakers could pursue their goals through the American legislative process. They could propose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, move the bill through committee, hold a floor debate, try to make the case for their plan’s merits, hope to persuade stakeholders and the public, and make an effort to pass their bill.
In practice, Republicans assume — correctly — that the American legislative process wouldn’t help them achieve their goals, because their priorities are regressive and deeply unpopular. So they’re settling on a new plan: circumvent their country’s existing system and get what they want by creating a hostage crisis.
For those who remember what happened after the 2010 midterm elections, the rough sketch of the GOP strategy will seem familiar: Republicans will tell the White House that they’ll refuse to address the debt ceiling unless Biden agrees to cut Social Security and Medicare. If the Democratic president balks, Republicans will allow the United States to default on its obligations and crash the economy on purpose.
This is, of course, precisely what a GOP-led House threatened in 2011 — when an official from the Obama White House said dealing with far-right Republicans was like “negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”
Let’s not forget that as recently as four years ago, Republicans controlled the White House, the Senate and the House, and they could’ve pursued cuts to social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security if they wanted to. But they didn’t.
Instead, they waited for a Democratic president, whom they hope to extort into giving them the cuts they want.
With 27 days remaining before Election Day, the takeaway for voters seems painfully obvious: Republicans not only intend to demand Social Security and Medicare cuts, they also have a radical plan to achieve their goals that puts both our economy and the full faith and credit of the United States in jeopardy.
Many Americans intend to support GOP candidates this year because of concerns about the economy. What those voters don’t seem to realize is that a Republican majority would likely pursue a hostage strategy that could make the economy spectacularly worse.