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'The Facts Are Just the Facts': Sanders Campaign Hits Back After Biden Claims He—Not Bernie—Has Consistently Protected Social Security

The former vice president says he advocated for cuts to the safety net program "20 years ago," but his track record shows otherwise. 

Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign took aim at primary election opponent former Vice President Joe Biden Monday after Biden claimed Sanders hasn't been "consistent" in his efforts to protect and raise Social Security benefits.

A reporter with local New Hampshire news station WMUR challenged Biden on air about his claim that the Sanders campaign had misinformed the public about the former vice president's attacks on Social Security with a "doctored" video last week.

Biden told the reporter he had advocated for cuts "20 years ago" and said Sanders "hasn't been consistent on Social Security," without elaborating on the Vermont senator's alleged inconsistencies, before explaining his current plan for the benefits which millions of retired Americans rely on for at least 90% of their income.

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"The facts are indisputable: Biden repeatedly pushed to freeze Social Security funding, cut Social Security benefits and raise the Social Security eligibility age—and he bragged about it on the floor of the U.S. Senate," countered Faiz Shakir, Sanders's campaign manager, in a press statement.

The WMUR reporter suggested that Biden's claims of consistency on Social Security don't hold up, considering he acknowledged advocating in the 1990s for a freeze on cost-of-living adjustments for the program, and now claims he wouldn't support such a freeze.

Biden tried to use the interview as an attempt to "distort his own decades-long effort to cut Social Security," the Sanders campaign said.

Last week, Bloomberg News published an article saying Sanders also pushed for Social Security "adjustments" as Biden and the Republican Party did, suggesting he meant benefits should be cut.

"He may be borrowing a word but he's speaking a totally different language," Sanders's communications director, Mike Casca, told Bloomberg.

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On Monday, Sanders's speechwriter, David Sirota, posted a 2007 "Meet the Press" interview in which Biden defended his earlier deal with Republicans including former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, in which Biden promised GOP leaders he would defend them from attacks on their proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare funding, and vice versa.

Raising the retirement age to cut Social Security "absolutely" had to be considered, Biden told NBC journalist Tim Russert at the time.

"This wasn't '20 years ago,'" Sirota tweeted. "This was 2007."

Meanwhile, the Sanders campaign detailed in a press release the senator's long record of voting to protect senior citizens who rely on Social Security.

When Biden boasted on the Senate floor in 1995 about how he tried to cut benefits "once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time," the campaign wrote, Sanders opposed the balanced budget amendment Biden backed and said it would mean "the destruction of the Social Security system."

Biden's interview in New Hampshire and the Sanders's campaign's response came days after Biden told voters at Iowa's Black & Brown Forum, "I didn't propose a freeze," despite widely-available footage of him proposing just that.

Contrary to Biden's claims, Shakir said Monday, "Bernie Sanders fought those efforts every single step of the way, and has fought his entire career to protect and expand Social Security."

"The facts are just the facts," he added.

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