The National Republican Senatorial Committee is running blatantly dishonest ads against six Democratic incumbents.
A couple of weeks after President Joe Biden noted in his State of the Union address that some congressional Republicans want to cut safety net programs, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is running false ads accusing Senate Democrats of wanting to put Medicare and Social Security "at risk."
The campaign arm of the Senate Republican conference released a series of six nearly identical attack ads on Tuesday, accusing potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2022 of trying to take away retirement benefits from older Americans.
One 15-second spot targets Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Over various stock video clips, a narrator tells viewers: "You earned your retirement benefits. Follow the rules. Paid into the system. But Tammy Baldwin wants to take 'em away. Baldwin backed Joe Biden's extreme agenda, putting your Medicare and Social Security at risk. Tell Tammy Baldwin: Hands off our benefits."
The words "TAMMY BALDWIN Take your benefits away" appear on the screen, sourced to the Bipartisan Policy Center, which describes itself as "a Washington, DC-based think tank that actively fosters bipartisanship by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans."
The claim that Baldwin backed Biden's "extreme agenda" is tied in very small letters to her 2021 vote for the American Rescue Plan, Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The accusation that her vote imperiled Social Security and Medicare is attributed to a February 2021 CNBC report about a provision in the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 that would trigger an automatic cut to Medicare — though not to Social Security — unless Congress specifically voted to stop it.
The group makes the same claims in its ads against Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), Jacky Rosen (NV), and Jon Tester (MT) with a script that's identical aside from the lawmakers' names.
An array of House and Senate Republicans recently backed significant cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson proposed making annual spending on the programs optional. Since Biden called them out in his Feb. 7 address to Congress, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra, and other Republican lawmakers have falsely claimed it is really the Democrats who are trying to cut the programs.
In a Feb. 17 press release, NRSC spokesperson Tate Mitchell said: "We are fully prepared to hold Tammy Baldwin accountable for backing policies that threatened Social Security and Medicare. Democrats' reckless spending is the true threat to these two popular programs."
An NRSC spokesperson did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation request for the source of the claim that each of the six Democrats want to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits.
The only related document on the Bipartisan Policy Committee's website from the date listed in the ads is a blog post endorsing changes to the Social Security program, warning that inflation was putting benefits at risk. It doesn't mention the six Senate Democrats.
The cited CNBC story noted that because the pandemic relief act increased the federal deficit, it would trigger a 4% cut to Medicare starting in 2022, as well as other cuts to mandatory programs, but would not impact Social Security. It also said that experts fully expected Congress to waive those required cuts — as it did after President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress enacted the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and following the enactment of bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills in 2020.
"That ain't gonna happen," former Congressional Budget Office official Barry Anderson told the outlet. "They'll waive it."
Indeed, in December 2021, 59 senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and nine other Republicans — voted to delay the Medicare cuts until 2023.
Last December, a bipartisan majority further delayed the automatic cuts until at least 2025 as part of its Consolidated Appropriations Act. That legislation passed 68-29 with 18 Senate Republicans in support.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines voted against both bills, as did most members of his caucus.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.