GOP study committee chairman warns against “mandatory cuts” to trust funds


President Joe Biden spars with Republicans over Social Security and Medicare at Tuesday’s State of the Union (Photo courtesy C-Span)

WASHINGTON–Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern on Wednesday called for a bipartisan commission on Social Security and Medicare following sparring over the two trust fund programs between the president and GOP lawmakers at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

President Joe Biden met with resounding disapproval from Republicans when he said some GOP lawmakers wanted to sunset Social Security and Medicare. Biden then went off script, proposing an informal agreement to protect the trust funds.

“So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?” Biden said, which prompted a standing ovation on both sides. “We got unanimity.”

Hern, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, said trust fund insolvency threatens cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“Anybody and everybody that’s not in politics that understand the trust funds—the Medicare trust fund and the Social Security trust fund—will tell you that Medicare will have mandatory cuts across the board in four years, and Social Security will in eight,” Hern said.

Rep. Kevin Hern (R, Tulsa) calls for commission on Social Security and Medicare. (Gaylord News photo/Noah Mack)

The Congressional Research Service found that Social Security trust funds will have been depleted by 2035. It also reported that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and the Disability Insurance trust funds will have been depleted by 2034.

Biden was referencing a proposal from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) that would require all federal legislation—including Social Security and Medicare—expire every five years.

“If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” Scott reiterated after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Hern (R-Tulsa) said he remains opposed to cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for seniors, but said something needs to be done to prevent trust fund insolvency.

“We need to sit down—in a bipartisan way—have a commission on Social Security,” Hern said. “That’s the easier one to look at and structurally fix for the future, so it’s guaranteed we will have that for our seniors.”

The last time Congress had a commission on Social Security was under George W. Bush in 2001.

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore) said a spokesperson for the White House dismissed on Tuesday the idea of a Social Security commission.

“The only reason the White House would dismiss a commission to reform and find solutions to save Social Security is that it must be afraid the commission would recommend something the president does not like,” Cole said.

Cole’s first action in the current session of Congress was to introduce legislation that would establish a Social Security commission.

At Cole’s first town hall of the new Congress, an Oklahoman from Ninnekah asked if Congress was going to stop Social Security insolvency.

“We’re not in any immediate danger, but the sooner you take care of it the better off you are,” Cole said in answer to the question.

Cole also said Medicare is in a more immediate jeopardy.

“We would still continue to provide the services, but you would have a huge cut in what we pay [medical] providers,” Cole said. “A lot of them would simply quit taking care of Medicare patients—we can’t have that.”

Cole reiterated that he doesn’t favor cutting benefits for Social Security or Medicare, citing that they are popular programs that Americans put their money into.

Hern and Cole both want to deal with the issue in a bipartisan manner, but believe the president is not on the same page.

“To not even entertain a conversation about the issues facing the programs shows he is not really serious about leading or preserving Social Security,” Cole said.


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