The United States reached its debt limit of $31.4 trillion Thursday. As Congress looks to reduce spending, some House Republicans are taking aim at Social Security and Medicare.
“We haven’t addressed these issues specifically, but while we know that Medicare and Social Security are on a path to insolvency, hasty partisan decisions to cut these crucial programs that are relied upon by our nation’s seniors should be avoided,” Jeanne McGlynn Delgado, vice president of government affairs at the American Seniors Housing Association, told the McKnight’s Business Daily Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Jan. 19 that the United States has reached its current $31.4 trillion borrowing cap but can continue paying its bills until June by shuffling money between various accounts. Among the possibilities for streamlining the budget floating around the GOP are cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which represent a large part of the federal budget.
“In recent days, a group of GOP lawmakers has called for the creation of special panels that might recommend changes to Social Security and Medicare, which face genuine solvency issues that could result in benefit cuts within the next decade,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday. “Others in the party have resurfaced more detailed plans to cut costs, including by raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, targeting younger Americans who have yet to obtain federal benefits.”
Additionally, some lawmakers have suggested raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65. (Under changes passed in the early 1980s, those born in 1960 and later already cannot collect full Social Security benefits until the age of 67.)
The Trust Act, put forth by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), is a “thoughtful” approach that “would set up ‘rescue committees’ to study the issues and present recommended policy changes to extend the long-term solvency of these entitlement programs in 180 days” Delgado said. “It has bipartisan support in the Senate and is a responsible approach to addressing these fiscal challenges.”
Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, called the Republicans’ suggestions “fiscal extortion” at the expense of older Americans.
“Many seniors are struggling to recover from the pandemic recession and runaway inflation – not to mention the physical toll that COVID has taken on older people. The last thing that they need is to have their vital Social Security and Medicare benefits threatened because Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without massive spending cuts, including seniors’ earned benefits,” he said.
In the meantime, as McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for approximately 70 million Americans increased by more than $140 per month beginning in January under a historic 8.7% cost-of-living increase.
The White House and House Democrats are calling for the debt ceiling to be raised before the United States faces defaulting on its loans. So far, both sides are at a standoff.