Check Please? Republicans Propose Major Cuts To Social Security Administration

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House Republicans will wait until the budget fight this spring to attack Social Security head-on. But in the meantime, they’re coming after America’s favorite entitlement at an angle. In the current spending bill, they’re proposing to slash the administrative funds that federal employees use to run the program. Democrats warn this will lead to furloughs and other service interruptions that could delay checks and prevent new retirees from enrolling.

“To jeopardize a lifeline for half a million new Social Security beneficiaries in order to score short term political points is simply bad policy,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee. “This reckless proposal would mean hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t get their Social Security checks this year. It’s a perfect example of how little House Republicans seem to care if their rigid ideological crusade hurts real people.”In a statement, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), who chairs the Social Security subcommittee under Levin, says, “[T]his Republican plan would close down Social Security offices for an entire month this year. That means half a million American seniors, disabled workers and surviving family members–working people who have earned their Social Security benefits–will find themselves placed into a backlog of unprocessed claims. It means phones going unanswered, claims going unprocessed and a ripple effect of backlogged cases that will continue well beyond this year.”

The Republicans claim the cuts amount to about $1 billion below what President Obama requested. But when dig in deeper, Democrats have found the cuts add up to about $1.7 billion — a hefty chunk of SSA’s operating budget.

This includes rescinded stimulus funds, and the $500 million SSA currently has in its reserve account to meet legal requirements and other operating expenses.

This comes at a time when the Social Security Administration is already stretched thin. SSA is operating under a hiring freeze because its current allocations are too low. Democrats warn the cuts would cause blackout periods in SSA’s operations, and create a huge backlog of claims across the program.

And, of course, things get even worse for beneficiaries if the spending impasse isn’t bridged, and the government shuts down temporarily.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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