WASHINGTON — Democrats slammed the House GOP for targeting Social Security in its new budget resolution unveiled Tuesday, contending that the move is part of an emerging Republican strategy to create a crisis atmosphere and set the stage for dramatic changes in how the program works.
Though the budget was mostly similar to previous years’ budgets, one major new item was a provision to prohibit a traditionally routine transfer of funds from the Social Security retirement fund (which is solvent through 2033) to the Social Security Disability Insurance fund, which has long been projected to become insolvent in 2016. It was a formal affirmation of a rule adopted by House Republicans on the first day of the new Congress to block such a “reallocation.”
“They’re trying to create a crisis. The point is to create a crisis,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the progressive caucus, told TPM in an interview. “This is how they operate. It’s governance by crisis. And it’s a pattern.”
Notably, the GOP budget, authored by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), did not endorse any immediate changes to Social Security, a crown jewel of liberalism. It did warn of “looming insolvency” and proposed a “bipartisan commission” to offer reforms to keep it solvent in the long term.
“In short,” the budget says, “there should be no raiding of the Social Security retirement program to bailout another, currently unsustainable program. Truly what’s needed is a long-term solution to the problems facing Social Security.”
“It’s a manufactured crisis,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the other co-chair of the progressive caucus, told TPM. “Past practice has been that the trust took care of that as a shift and a pay-for.”
Ellison accused Republicans of playing a sneaky game by “trying to make Democrats share in the blame” for cuts to Social Security when the time comes. “They’re also trying to signal to the American people that government is dysfunctional and cannot be relied on,” he said. “So it’s a short and a long game.”
Grijalva insisted that Democrats should not play along, and should instead push to raise revenues to cover the long-term shortfall as well as expand, rather than cut, Social Security. “It would behoove us on anything dealing with Social Security that at the end of the day, whatever happens, we own it,” he said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), the third-ranked Senate Democrat, also attacked Republicans for “monkeying around” with Social Security.
“I think that they’re monkeying around with Social Security in a bad way, and I think it’s not going to stand,” he told reporters. “We should not cut Social Security. I don’t think we should privatize Social Security, I don’t think we should raise the age of Social Security.”