GUEST COMMENTARY - After securing a debt ceiling agreement that caps federal spending and threatens food aid for hundreds of thousands of poor adults, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Wednesday that Republicans are not finished targeting the nation's safety net programs—and signaled a coming effort by the GOP to slash Social Security and Medicare.
In a Fox News appearance ahead of the House's passage of the debt limit legislation, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the measure is just "the first step" of the GOP's broader agenda, which includes further cuts to federal programs and massive tax breaks for the wealthy.
"This isn't the end. This doesn't solve all the problems," the Republican leader said of the House-passed bill, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025—setting up another potential standoff shortly after the 2024 elections.
McCarthy lamented that President Joe Biden "walled off" major components of the federal budget, including Social Security and Medicare, from cuts as part of the debt ceiling agreement—though McCarthy himself agreed to "take those off the table" in late January.
"The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It's Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt," the Republican speaker said Wednesday, adding that he intends to announce a bipartisan "commission" to examine ways to cut such spending.
The progressive group Our Revolution responded that "it's never enough for the right wing."
"They want it all," the group wrote on Twitter. "We have to tell them NO."
Watch McCarthy's comments:
The idea of forming a bipartisan commission to study and propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other non-discretionary spending is hardly new.
In 2021, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) led a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers—including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)—in unveiling legislation that would establish bipartisan panels to study and recommend changes to the nation's trust funds, a scheme modeled after the Obama-era Simpson-Bowles commission that recommended Social Security cuts.
The changes proposed by the so-called "rescue committees" would then receive expedited votes in the House and Senate.
Advocacy groups have described the Romney legislation, known as the TRUST Act, as an insidious ploy to cut Medicare and Social Security behind closed doors. Republicans have also proposed raising the Social Security retirement age, a move that would slash benefits across the board.
Social Security Works, which has been speaking out against the TRUST Act for years, said Wednesday that "MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits."
Jon Bauman, president of the Social Security Works PAC, urged the public to "beware the 'Problem Solvers' and 'No Labels'-style Democrats who would be willing to 'serve' on McCarthy's commission to cut your earned benefits."
"They are problem MAKERS," he wrote.
(Jake Johnson is a staff writer for CommonDreams.org where this article was first published.)