After threats by some members to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of debt-ceiling negotiations, Republicans as a group are now backing away from this threat.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) confirmed this when he publicly stated that he won’t seek cuts to Social Security and Medicare, blunting a tool Democrats have used to politically bully Republicans.
Former President Trump, now a 2024 presidential candiate, reiterated the Republican stance by saying not to “cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.” This is essentially the same stance taken by Democrats.
However there is little doubt that spending on our nations Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs, which provide retirement and healthcare benefits to mainly seniors and the disabled, will need to be addressed as these programs make up nearly 50% of all federal spending.
Proposals that don’t cut benefits but raise eligibility requirements, like the age you can start getting benefits or means-testing to exclude higher income earners, have not gained much traction either as the highest contributors to the program could be hit the worst.
Social Security benefits saw a record COLA of 8.7% for 2023, along with Medicare benefits and costs, which continue to add more to the federal expenditure on these programs.
However with the debt-ceiling debate in sharp focus with a summer deadline to reach an agreement, or face an unprecedented US debt repayment default, the debate on cutting costs these large benefits program has resurfaced again.
However it is because of the wide-ranging impact and support these programs provide for millions of senior Americans that neither party has the political clout or buffer to force any changes. It is almost certainly political doom to vote against senior benefit cuts given they are still in the majority when it comes to voting.
In fact with razor thin majorities in the House and Senate, the partisan bickering around benefit cuts will continue but no changes will happen this year or in 2024. Especially with a tight presidential race and election looming.
This however means the long-term financial risks facing both programs will continue, despite general consensus that both Social Security and Medicare need significant overhauling and streamlining to stay viable in the decades to come as American ages.