'Every Republican should be asked' about GOP ploy to cut Social Security: House Dem

'Every Republican should be asked' about GOP ploy to cut Social Security: House Dem
Congressman Steve Scalise speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo via Gage Skidmore.
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Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell said Tuesday that every congressional Republican and GOP candidate should be pressed on whether they support their party leaders' stated plan to hold the U.S. economy hostage to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare, popular programs that have emerged as key midterm issues.

"The Republican Party is openly promising to topple the entire American economy unless they are allowed to demolish Social Security and Medicare,” Pascrell said in a statement after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) confirmed that the GOP will use a fast-approaching debt ceiling fight as leverage to enact spending reductions if Republicans retake control of the chamber in the November elections.

While McCarthy declined to explicitly say the GOP will target Social Security and Medicare, other top Republicans haven't been so reserved.

In an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) defended his party's plans for the two programs, claiming that the GOP supports "shoring up Medicare and Social Security" and deploying the usual—and false—talking point that they are in crisis.

Earlier this year, the Republican Study Committee—of which Scalise is a member—released a proposal that called for raising the retirement age to 70, mean-testing Social Security benefits, and partially privatizing the New Deal-era program.

Speaking to Bloomberg Government last week, several Republicans hoping to serve as chair of the House Budget Committee next year explicitly said they plan to take aim at Social Security and Medicare if the GOP wins a majority.

In his statement Tuesday, Pascrell said it "isn't hyperbole" to warn that Republicans are willing to risk an economic disaster to impose long-sought changes to Social Security and Medicare.

"This is Republicans' own words and Americans need to hear them loud and clear," said the New Jersey Democrat. "Every Republican should be asked if they agree with their leaders' stated plans to tank the economy to demolish Social Security and Medicare. Breaching the ceiling and blowing up the entire American economy can never happen. We must use every tool at our disposal to prevent Republicans from destroying America."

Democratic lawmakers who want to raise taxes on the rich to fund an increase in Social Security benefits haven't hesitated to spotlight GOP leaders' recent comments, even as they receive relatively little attention in the corporate media.

"Seniors are about to see the largest increase in their Social Security checks in 40+ years," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday, referring to the newly announced cost-of-living adjustment.

"But if Republicans take control of Congress," Jayapal added, "they'll cut benefits and raise the eligibility age—forcing seniors to risk their health by delaying retirement."

A number of Republican candidates—including incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)—have said on the campaign trail that they would like to cut or privatize Social Security and Medicare. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proposed sunsetting all federal laws—including those authorizing Social Security and Medicare—every five years.

In recent weeks, Democrats have begun more frequently highlighting Republicans' comments on Social Security and Medicare in campaign ads as the pivotal midterms draw closer.

"All you have to do is Google Blake Masters to see how extreme he is,” says a recently launched Senate Majority PAC ad in Arizona.

The Democratic ad plays footage of GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters putting his support for gutting Social Security in plain terms.

"Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right?" Masters said during a candidate forum in June. "Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."

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