6 Times Republicans Suggested—or Outright Said—they Want to Cut Social Security and Medicare

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and GOP members meet with reporters on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Keya Vakil

October 27, 2022

Top Republicans have made clear they plan to hold the global economy hostage to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Don’t believe us? Here are six separate times they’ve suggested—or outright said—they want to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Election Day is less than two weeks away, and Republicans are on the verge of taking back control of the US House and possibly the US Senate. 

This naturally raises a question: How would Republicans govern if they won the House and/or Senate? Based on the available evidence, there’s one thing above all else they seem to prize: Making cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which would fulfill a decades-long goal of undermining the programs that more than 60 million Americans rely on.

It’s true that Social Security needs to be reformed before the Social Security Trust Fund—the amount of money in reserves—runs out, which is projected to happen around 2034 due to declining birth rates after the baby boom period. If this were to happen, it would mean seniors would only receive roughly 77% of the benefits they’re due to get after that date. But there are ways to address that problem, such as by raising the payroll tax rate. 

Republicans have balked at that idea and have instead set their sights on making cuts to the programs, using the looming expiration of the debt ceiling as leverage. The debt ceiling is a number set by Congress that determines how much the US is able to borrow in debt. Increasing that amount is a routine congressional task, and failing to do so would cause the US to default on its debt, triggering a global financial crisis. 

You can read more about that potential crisis here, but the short of it is that Republicans plan to hold the global economy hostage so they can make cuts to spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare. Don’t believe us? Here are six separate times they’ve indicated—or outright said—they want to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare:

1. Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy Hints at Cuts

During a recent interview with Punchbowl News, top House Republican Kevin McCarthy made clear he wanted to cut spending. He did not specifically mention Social Security or Medicare, but they are among the biggest parts of the federal budget and have long been a target of Republicans. McCarthy explained that spending cuts were necessary to reduce the national debt, but his party also wants to extend the Trump tax cuts, which are already on pace to add nearly $2 trillion to the deficit.

2. Influential House Republicans Threaten to Use the Debt Ceiling to Make Cuts to the Programs

The week before McCarthy’s interview, the four Republicans fighting to serve as House Budget Committee Chairman in the next Congress told Bloomberg Government that they would use the debt ceiling deadline to force cuts to programs Democrats support, such as Social Security and Medicare.

“Our main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary—it’s got to be on entitlements,” such as Social Security and Medicare, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) said. 

The Republicans told Blomberg they wanted to increase the eligibility age for both programs and/or reduce benefits for some wealthier Americans. Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma explicitly stated that the debt ceiling deadline is “obviously a leverage point” for achieving their goals.

Raising the eligibility age is “the worst way to cut benefits,” according to Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

“It hurts most the people who can’t work any longer. These are people with less education and physically harder jobs. They get stuck with lower benefits for the rest of their lives,” she told Politifact.

3. Sen. Ron Johnson Said Social Security and Medicare Should Be Renegotiated Every Single Year

Over the summer, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson straight up came out and said Social Security and Medicare should not be guaranteed—as they currently are—and should instead be negotiated by Congress every single year. Johnson, who is running for a third term in November, made his comments during an interview on the Regular Joe Show, hosted by Joe Giganti.

Speaking on the program, Johnson argued that mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare should be reformed and fall under “discretionary spending”—which means Congress could cut funding for them or eliminate them altogether.

4. Sen. Rick Scott Said Social Security and Medicare Should Be Renegotiated Every Five Years

In February, Florida Sen. Rick Scott released his “Plan to Rescue America,” a grab-bag of extreme policies, including a proposal to “sunset” all federal legislation in five years, requiring Congress to re-authorize every federal law, including those governing Medicare and Social Security. This would ease the path for Republicans to ultimately kill them.

5. 157 House Republicans Backed Cuts to the Programs

The Republican Study Committee (RSC)—a group of 157 House Republicans—this year released its “Blueprint to Save America,” where they propose raising the eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security and withholding payments to those who retired early and earned over a certain amount, effectively making cuts to the program.

The RSC isn’t some fringe group; it includes 74% of House Republicans, including North Carolina Senate nominee Ted Budd, who’s previously voted for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, voted to raise the retirement age, and recently hinted he might vote for cuts to the programs in the future.

6. Sen. Lindsey Graham Called Reforming Social Security and Medicare a “Must”

Finally, we come to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who in June said “entitlement reform is a must” and suggested he’s open to changing the income cap and eligibility age for programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Republicans are threatening Social Security in other ways, too. Arizona’s Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, for instance, proposed privatizing the program, which would leave the security of millions of seniors to the whims of the stock market. 

To be clear, these positions are massively unpopular. Recent polling from Data for Progress found that 77% of Americans, including 76% of Republicans, support increasing Social Security benefits for all beneficiaries, and 79% are concerned about possible privatization.

But if Republicans take control of the House and Senate, cuts could be on the horizon—despite what the American people want.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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