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The American Independent

Santos accuses group of gaslighting him over debt limit vote

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) and other Republicans claim it would not cut benefits, but the House GOP’s debt limit bill requires spending cuts that could slash veterans’ benefits and make it harder to access safety net programs.

By Josh Israel - May 04, 2023
Congressman George Santos attends pro-Trump supporters rally at New York criminal court on April 4, 2023.
Congressman George Santos attends pro-Trump supporters rally at New York criminal court on April 4, 2023.(Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

An advocacy organization has launched a campaign to hold House Republicans accountable for voting for a debt ceiling bill that includes an estimated 22% across-the-board cut to federal discretionary spending. One of those GOP lawmakers, New York Rep. George Santos, responded on Wednesday by accusing the group of gaslighting.

Social Security Works, a nonprofit group that advocates for the protection of Social Security and other safety net programs, is putting up billboards in congressional districts represented by Republicans who voted for the Limit, Save, Grow Act. The group says it aims to make sure constituents know their representatives “voted to make it far harder for seniors and veterans to claim their earned benefits.”

Upon discovering that the group has requested donations to fund a billboard attacking his own vote, Santos tweeted out a short video of himself looking at the group’s fundraising page on a computer screen and telling voters:

That’s what gaslighting looks like, ladies and gentlemen. In no circumstance did I vote to cut Social Security, Medicare, or any VA benefits. We need to stop this rhetoric. This is dangerous. These are lies. And this is exactly how we continue to rip this country apart, with this kind of rhetoric. There is no cuts proposed by the Republicans in Congress to defund any of your benefits. Be weary [sic] of these baits online. I’m Congressman George Santos and I approve this message.

A Santos spokesperson did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation request for comment for this story.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 217-215 in the House of Representatives on April 26 with no Democratic support, would pair $4.5 trillion in cuts to federal spending over the next decade with a $1.5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling. Without immediate action to raise the debt limit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has predicted, the government will be unable to afford to pay all of its spending obligations as soon as June 1 and will not be able to pay the interest due on the existing national debt. Experts say a debt default would have catastrophic consequences for the global economy.

The GOP bill would cut all discretionary spending back to 2022 levels. The White House and outside think tanks have estimated such an overall reduction would necessitate cuts averaging 22% on spending on all programs covered in the budget.

Santos and other Republicans have claimed that, since their proposal does not explicitly identify the Veterans Administration or Social Security Administration as departments that would face cuts, it is unfair to say their funding would be cut. But their legislative language contains no exemptions for those or for other parts of the government that implement safety net programs, meaning their funding would likely see reductions.

In a March 17 letter to Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Appropriations, Social Security Administration acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi warned that the proposed cuts would mean fewer field offices, shorter operating hours, long wait times for claims, and staffing reductions:

Returning SSA to the FY 2022 funding level or, more drastically, cutting funds by 22 percent from the 2023 enacted level, would greatly harm our ability to serve the public as we are already struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic. … If we are faced with a cut of more than six percent, it would be catastrophic for the agency and for the people depending on Social Security programs supporting their daily needs. For every $100 million below the 6 percent reduction, we would have to lay off an additional 1,000 people, further undermining services to the public. Every 1,000 staff lay off is the equivalent of closing over 40 field offices.

The House GOP has frequently noted that high inflation rates over the past couple of years have made goods more expensive. “Thanks to #Bidenflation items like eggs, milk, & bread are becoming more of a luxury for all families,” Santos tweeted on Feb. 27, sharing a House Republican caucus graphic showing price increases. Because the bill does not adjust for inflation, the real impact of the cuts in funding would be even more draconian for agencies and programs than just a 22% decrease.

In an email, Social Security Works Executive Director Alex Lawson said Santos, who is facing multiple state and federal investigations after fabricating much of his resume during the 2022 campaign and repeatedly lying to voters, is the one gaslighting.

George Santos is doing what he always does: Lying. Santos and his fellow Republicans voted for 22% cuts to the Social Security Administration and VA. Those cuts would close hundreds of offices and increase wait times, making it far harder for seniors and Veterans to claim the benefits they’ve earned. This is a cut to Social Security, this is a cut to Veterans’ benefits. Santos might have been able to lie his way into Congress, but he can’t lie his way out of his vote.

The GOP bill is unlikely to become law. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said April 25 that the bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate, and the White House promised that President Joe Biden would veto it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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