U.S. President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden conducts a news conference on the midterm elections and other issues in the State Dining Room of the White House on November 9, 2022.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

To Defend Social Security and Medicare, Dems Urged to Lift Debt Ceiling Before 2023

The president said that "under no circumstances" will he go along with Republican efforts to cut the social safety net programs, declaring: "That's not on the table. I will not do that."

With Democrats still at risk of losing control of one or both chambers of Congress after Tuesday's midterm elections, calls mounted for federal lawmakers and President Joe Biden to raise the debt ceiling before the new year.

As votes were still being counted in several states Wednesday, the advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted that Democrats, led by Biden, "focused heavily on Social Security during the campaign. They made sure voters knew about Republican threats to the program, and promised that Democrats would protect Social Security."

"Now, it's time for Democrats to keep that promise by raising or eliminating the debt ceiling in the final months of the year, so that Republicans can't use it as leverage to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare," the group declared. "After last night, it's clear that cutting Social Security remains the third rail of American politics. Republicans just got shocked."

During a press conference Wednesday, Biden said that "under no circumstances" will he go along with Republican efforts to cut the social safety net programs. As he put it: "That's not on the table. I will not do that."

As Common Dreams detailed in mid-October, four Republicans hoping to serve as the next chair of the House Budget Committee--Reps. Jason Smith (Mo.), Jodey Arrington (Texas), Buddy Carter (Ga.), and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.)--have signaled that if the GOP seizes the chamber, they aim to use next year's debt ceiling deadline to force concessions from Democrats.

All four of those GOP congressmen won their races Tuesday and various projections currently lean toward Republicans having a narrow majority in the House next year.

Amid growing fears of Republicans using the looming deadline to go after key government programs, over 30 lawmakers late last month called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "to implement a solution more permanent and reliable than the current practice of hastily taking action each time we approach the dollar amount of the debt limit or the expiration of an enacted suspension."

"As we have detailed in the past, there are several options to do this," the lawmakers wrote, "including proposals to authorize the secretary of the Treasury to raise the debt limit unilaterally (e.g., H.R. 5415) and to permanently repeal the federal debt limit (e.g., H.R. 1041 or H.R. 3305), among others."

Politico reported last week that the president "has ruled out abolishing the debt limit, deeming it an 'irresponsible' idea," but also, "senior Biden officials and allies are exploring a series of strategies for raising the debt ceiling, in a bid to avert a standoff with Republicans next year."

"The private discussions have focused largely on whether Congress can and should head off the high-stakes conflict before it begins by striking a lame-duck session deal to lift the debt limit--or, in a sign of the grave concerns within the party, deploying a procedural tool that would allow Democrats to unilaterally pass an increase," the outlet noted, referring to the budget reconciliation process used earlier this year to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. "Under consideration is a debt ceiling hike that would extend past the 2024 election, in effect removing the drama for the rest of Biden's term."

"Democratic leaders are already juggling several competing priorities for the lame-duck session, including efforts to pass a major defense bill, push through outstanding energy-permitting legislation, and vote on proposals protecting same-sex marriage and shoring up the electoral process," Politico pointed out. "Congress also needs to reach a government funding deal before its December 16 deadline."

Still, defenders of Social Security and Medicare are demanding swift action.

"Don't wait for the center to conjure excuses," MSNBC columnist James Downie said early Wednesday. "Raise the debt ceiling. Now."

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