People gather at a rally supporting Social Security.

Demonstrators attend a rally in support of social security on February 24, 2023 in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

(Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for MoveOn)

Protect Social Security by Dumping GOP 'Death Panel,' Say 116 House Dems

"We cannot allow House Republicans to ram through their closed-door commission that is designed to fast-track cuts to the benefits hardworking Americans rely on," asserted Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.

Decrying Republican plans for "ripping away Social Security from seniors behind closed doors" via a so-called fiscal commission, more than half of U.S. House Democrats on Thursday urged congressional leaders to scrap plans to fast-track the controversial panel.

Fiscal commission legislation being considered by the House Budget Committee "would create a process in which legislating would be done by a small group of individuals behind closed doors" to pass a law "that cuts benefits and calls for an up-or-down vote without hearings, and that is unamendable," 116 House Democrats led by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

The lawmakers continued:

There is no shortage of legislation that will improve the fiscal standing of the United States while directly benefiting the public. Democratic proposals include legislation that would extend Social Security's solvency for another generation while expanding benefits the American people rely on—benefits that haven't been expanded in more than 50 years. It is Congress' responsibility to conduct the oversight and recommend enhancements to solvency or cuts, and it should be done in the open and not behind closed doors.

In a statement, Larson said that "we cannot allow House Republicans to ram through their closed-door commission that is designed to fast-track cuts to the benefits hardworking Americans rely on, like Social Security."

"If they want to have debates about policy that directly impacts the lives and livelihoods of Americans families, we should have these discussions out in the open for our constituents to see and be a part of," he added.

While House Republicans claim the purpose of the proposed fiscal commission is to control the $34 trillion national debt, Democrats have expressed skepticism regarding their true intentions, noting that GOP lawmakers have dramatically increased the debt via tax cuts for corporations and rich Americans in recent years.

In November, House Republicans proposed cuts to Internal Revenue Service funding that would slash federal revenue by $27 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A 2023 analysis by the Center for American Progress found that tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush and Trump administration have added $10 trillion to the national debt this century.

Social Security, meanwhile, does not add to the long-term federal deficit because the program is required by law to pay benefits from an internal trust fund and is prohibited from borrowing.

"Republicans are not serious about the deficit. They are not even serious about governing. They are serious about only one thing, and that is ripping away Social Security from seniors behind closed doors," said Schakowsky. "A so-called fiscal commission would fast-track cuts to vital benefits Americans rely on."

"Social Security benefits are already modest—only about $21,384 a year, yet Republicans want to put these hard-earned benefits at risk," she added. "We must expand Social Security benefits, not cut them."

"Republicans are not serious about the deficit. They are not even serious about governing. They are serious about only one thing, and that is ripping away Social Security from seniors behind closed doors."

Republican presidential candidates have openly expressed willingness to slash Social Security, a stance still viewed as the deadly "third rail" of U.S. politics. While GOP front-runner and former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have attacked rival Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, for openly advocating slashing the program and raising the retirement age, Trump told the World Economic Forum in 2020 that he would consider cutting benefits "at some point," while DeSantis said he would "revamp" Social Security.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), who signed the letter, called Social Security "one of America's great success stories."

"It stands as a monument to decency and dignity, and is a birthright of hardworking Americans, yet it has been under attack," Pascrell said on the House floor Wednesday night. "The Republican Study Committee proposed slashing Social Security benefits by $718 billion and the GOP leadership wants to create a so-called 'fiscal commission'—a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Other critics have likened Republicans' proposed fiscal commission to a "death panel." The proposal is deeply unpopular, with more than 80% of U.S. voters opposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Advocates applauded House Democrats for standing against the proposal.

"They recognize it for what it is—a scheme to slash Social Security behind closed doors," Nancy Altman, president of the advocacy group Social Security Works, told Common Dreams.

"Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate should make it clear that a commission is a poison pill, something they will never accept under any circumstances," Altman continued. "Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits. They should never be negotiating chips."

"Instead of a closed door commission, the House should hold an up or down vote on the Social Security 2100 Act," she added. "This legislation increases Social Security's modest benefits and ensures the expanded benefits can be paid in full and on time for decades to come."

Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)—the nation's largest federal workers' union—said in a statement that "a fiscal commission would give a small group of lawmakers and nonelected individuals enormous power to recommend cuts to Social Security and other popular programs without any ability for the public to weigh in."

"If Congress is serious about preserving Social Security, Medicare, and similar programs for future generations, then it needs to have an honest discussion about how to do that—not pawn off these decisions to a secret group behind closed doors," Kelley continued.

"With just a week before government funding runs out for various departments including Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, [Housing and Urban Development], and Transportation, Congress should focus on passing full-year funding for these and other government programs instead of trying to pawn off its tough decisions to an exclusive commission," he added.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.