The White House has weighed in publicly for the first time on a House Republican move that could precipitate a fight over Social Security in the next two years.
The House voted last week to block a routine transfer of tax revenue between Social Security’s retirement and disability funds; the latter is projected to start being unable to pay full benefits in late 2016, sparking a crisis that advocates warn the GOP could use as leverage to push changes to the program. The rule says a transfer, which had been done 11 times previously under Democratic and Republican administrations, can be done only if there are cost-saving measures attached to it.
In a statement to TPM, the White House said that it generally opposes measures that limit Congress’s ability to transfer revenue between the Social Security funds, as the House rule does.
“Generally speaking, the Administration strongly opposes any efforts to undermine Congress’ ability to reallocate funds between the Social Security retirement and disability trust funds,” a White House spokesperson told TPM, “as they have done with bipartisan support numerous times in the past in both directions.”
As TPM previously reported, the White House’s stance on the GOP’s Social Security play has been the source of some consternation among the program’s advocates. They are wary because President Obama has shown a willingness to entertain cuts to the program in some past budgets and during the 2011 debt-limit negotiations.
The White House spokesperson told TPM that with the disability program’s crisis looming in 2016, Congress has “a duty to act this year to fix this problem.”
“Doing so prevents a deep and abrupt cut in benefits for vulnerable people with disabilities, including many who are nearing retirement age and have paid into Social Security for many years,” the spokesperson said.