House Republicans have introduced legislation to guarantee Social Security and Medicare benefit payments will continue even if the U.S. debt limit is reached, and to state that Social Security should be preserved for generations to come.
Both bills were introduced on Feb. 8 and come amid a dispute with President Joe Biden over his characterization of Republicans as favoring cuts to the popular benefit programs.
Both Republican bills were introduced on Feb. 8, a day after Biden’s State of the Union address, during which he accused Republicans of wanting to sunset both programs after five years and of holding the nation’s economy hostage until their demands were met.
The president was referring to a plan authored by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that was quickly dismissed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and to a Republican Study Committee report released last year that suggested alterations to Social Security and Medicare.
Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are negotiating over an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.
The Speaker has repeatedly stated that Republicans will not end Social Security or Medicare benefits but seek a “responsible” debt increase accompanied by spending cuts.
The current debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion was approached in January but forestalled until June through “extraordinary measures” taken by the U.S. Treasury. The debt ceiling is the statutory limit on the national debt imposed by Congress.
If the debt ceiling is reached, the government will no longer be able to borrow money to meet current financial obligations.
Under the Republican bill, sponsored by Rep. John James (R-Mich.), the Secretary of the Treasury would be authorized to make Medicare and Social Security payments despite the debt limit being reached.
That would ensure that the United States would not default on those benefits so long as it could continue borrowing. It would also prevent either party from using the programs as bargaining chips in debates about increasing the debt ceiling.
A second bill, introduced by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) and cosponsored by 10 Republicans, calls for a resolution declaring “Social Security should be preserved and protected for current beneficiaries, and for future generations to come.”
House resolutions do not have the force of law but express the sentiment of the body on a particular matter.
On Feb. 9, the White House issued a list of statements by Republican leaders intending to make changes to Social Security or eliminate it outright, though some dated to 2015 and 2010.