With Republicans pledging to address entitlement spending this year, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) led a rally in the Capitol on Monday to protest any cuts to Social Security.
While Republican budget cuts currently under negotiation would not touch benefits, Reid warned that a proposed $1.7 billion cut to the Social Security Administration would “really hurt Social Security” by reducing the program’s ability to quickly process claims.
“They cut the money to allow Social Security to be funded properly so they can administer the programs they need,” Reid said.
Attendees chanted “Raise the cap!” in response to a call by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to fund the program by expanding taxes to higher incomes rather than lowering benefits or raising the retirement age.Reid and other Democratic Senators at the event recounted their own family histories, pointing to moments where Social Security helped them through difficult times. Reid mentioned his grandmother, who raised eight children. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) described how Social Security payments helped his mother-in-law raise his wife and her four siblings after their father was killed in car accident. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) talked about how his father used the benefits to help raise him and his brothers after their mother passed away.
“I don’t have to read about Social Security in a book, I lived it,” Harkin said. “I saw what it did for my family.”
Democrats have repeatedly accused Republicans of planning to meddle with Social Security in recent months, pointing to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to shift the program to a system of private accounts as evidence the GOP plans to radically alter entitlements. Ryan’s proposal, part of a broader deficit reduction plan, has limited co-sponsors even within his own party, but he and GOP leaders have pledged to address entitlements in upcoming budget talks. A bipartisan group of Senators are also in negotiations on a deficit reduction plan based on the White House’s deficit commission, which suggested raising the retirement age as part of a package to lengthen Social Security’s solvency, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a participant in the talks, has warned that keeping the proposal could kill a deal.