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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy participates in an event with Newt Gingrich

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich participate in a discussion on July 26, 2022. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

House GOP Agenda Signals Push for Social Security and Medicare Cuts

"Republicans tell us over and over again that they will hand our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits over to Wall Street if they get power," said Alex Lawson of Social Security Works.

Jake Johnson

House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled parts of a policy agenda that indicates the party would push for cuts to Social Security and Medicare if it retakes the majority in November.

A one-page summary of the agenda that House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), are expected to formally introduce Friday includes a highly misleading line that expresses the GOP's commitment to "save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare."

"Democrats are fighting to expand Social Security, while Republicans want to cut, privatize, and destroy it behind closed doors."

Republicans frequently shroud their push for Social Security benefit cuts—and even full-scale privatization—in rhetoric aimed at convincing the public that the GOP is actually trying to rescue the beloved program from a dire financial crisis that analysts and advocates say doesn't exist.

"Republicans want to protect Social Security for current beneficiaries and future generations—and if possible save Social Security once and for all," Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) declared in July.

More fleshed-out policy proposals recently released by House Republicans offer a closer look at what GOP lawmakers mean when they say they want to "save" Social Security. In June, the Republican Study Committee—a group made up of 158 of 212 House Republicans, including Brady—released a proposal that calls for gradually raising the retirement age to 70, partially privatizing Social Security, and mean-testing benefits.

"Republicans tell us over and over again that they will hand our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits over to Wall Street if they get power," Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, told Common Dreams on Thursday. "Democrats are fighting to expand Social Security, while Republicans want to cut, privatize, and destroy it behind closed doors."

The House GOP's "Commitment to America" agenda, which was intentionally designed to be light on policy specifics, also takes aim at historic Inflation Reduction Act provisions requiring Medicare to negotiate the prices of a limited number of prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies. The Republican agenda characterizes the provisions as a "drug takeover scheme" that "could lead to 135 fewer lifesaving treatments and cures"—a critique that echoes the pharmaceutical lobby.

"This agenda is yet another reminder of who Republicans work for: Their Wall Street and Big Pharma donors," said Lawson.

House Republicans are rolling out their agenda just weeks ahead of November midterm elections that will decide control of Congress next year.

Politico reported Thursday that several Republican Senate candidates have openly advocated privatization of Social Security and Medicare on the campaign trail in recent weeks.

"The privatization is hugely important," Don Bolduc, the GOP's Senate nominee in New Hampshire, said of Medicare during a town hall in August. "Getting government out of it, getting government money with strings attached out of it."

Democratic candidates, by contrast, have touted their pledges to defend Social Security and Medicare and expand the programs to meet the needs of seniors, people with disabilities, and others who rely on them to meet basic needs.

Mandela Barnes, the Democratic Senate nominee in Wisconsin, vowed Thursday to fight any GOP attempt to weaken or privatize Social Security, drawing a contrast with his Republican opponent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has voiced support for making Social Security and Medicare "discretionary" programs.

"Mandela will ensure Social Security stays solvent for future generations by making sure the very wealthy pay their fair share," Barnes' campaign says on its website. "Mandela will vote against measures that would raise the retirement age for Social Security, cut benefits, or in any way betray our obligation to workers and retirees."

An earlier version of this story misstated the day of a statement.

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