Mitch McConnell: Rick Scott would sunset the safety net for millions
The Senate Republican leader says that the plan is Scott’s, not the Republican Party’s. But Scott is not alone.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed on Thursday that Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is proposing to require that safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, expire and be subject to new approval by Congress every five years. This comes after Republicans accused President Joe Biden of lying when he accurately noted in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that some in the GOP want to sunset or slash the programs.
In an appearance on the Terry Meiners podcast, the Kentucky Republican was questioned about the veracity of Biden’s claims.
“President Biden is out shopping his State of the Union claims and still selling the point that the Republicans — he names Rick Scott — that the Republicans want to sunset Social Security and Medicare. So is that true?” Meiners asked.
“Unfortunately, that was the Scott plan. That’s not a Republican plan, that was the Rick Scott plan,” McConnell responded. “The Republican plan, as I pointed out last fall, if we were to become the majority, there were no plans to raise taxes on half the American people or to sunset Medicare or Social Security. … That’s the view of the speaker of the House [Kevin McCarthy] as well. … Speaker McCarthy said Social Security and Medicare are not to be touched, and I’ve said the same.”
In February 2022, while serving as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott proposed a “Rescue America” plan for what Republicans would do if they regained congressional majorities in the midterm elections. Among the unpopular ideas in the package was a proposal to automatically make every federal law expire every five years, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, and antiterrorism laws.
“It’s just a bad idea,” McConnell of Scott’s proposal. “I think it will be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own reelection in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any other state in America.”
Biden said in his address Tuesday: “Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s a majority.”
As GOP lawmakers booed and screamed at him, accusing him of lies, the president added: “Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.”
Though Congress often struggles even to agree on annual budgets, Scott argued in March that making it reapprove Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security every five years was the best way to “preserve” the programs.
McConnell attacked Scott’s plan at the time, saying that if he became majority leader, his agenda would not include “sunsetting Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid” and warning, “I don’t think that’s a strategy that’s useful to a candidate, say, in Arizona or Nevada.”
After Republicans lost targeted Senate races in both states in the midterm elections in November 2022 and even lost an open seat in Pennsylvania that had been held by Republicans, some in the party blamed Scott. But he continues to tout the same “Rescue America” package, even running national advertisements for the plan as he says he’s running for reelection in Florida.
Contrary to McConnell’s suggestion, though, Scott is not the only Republican talking about sunsetting or making major cuts to safety net programs.
Scott’s plan was endorsed or praised by many others in the party, including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.
In October, Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter called for significant spending cuts and said, “Our main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary — it’s got to be on entitlements.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News last month, “Entitlement reform is a must for us to not become Greece,” which endured a financial crisis in 2010.
The Republican Study Committee, which includes 172 right-wing House Republicans, released a fiscal year 2023 budget plan last year called “Blueprint to Save America.” It proposed significant safety net program changes, including raising the age of eligibility for people who have already paid in to Medicare.
Scott tweeted on Wednesday that it is unfair to suggest that his proposal to sunset every program means he wants to see those programs eliminated. “@JoeBiden is confused…to suggest that this means I want to cut Social Security or Medicare is a lie, & is a dishonest move…from a very confused President,” he wrote. “Does he think I also intend to get rid of the U.S. Navy? Or the border patrol? Or air traffic control, maybe? This is the kind of fake, gotcha BS that people hate about Washington.”
On Thursday, Biden spoke to an audience at the University of Tampa and vowed to veto any proposals that would harm the safety net programs. His team placed a copy of Scott’s plan on each seat in the room.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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