The U.S. House Budget Committee is facing heat for passing a bill to establish a bipartisan fiscal commission that aims to solve the federal government’s budget problem without specifically protecting Social Security or Medicare. Critics say the plan could lead to Social Security benefit cuts, though for now the details remain fuzzy.
The committee last week approved the bill 22-12, The Hill reported. Three Democrats joined 19 Republicans in passing the measure.
According to Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) “is 100% committed to this commission” and wants to attach a bill to final 2024 fiscal appropriations legislation, Roll Call reported.
The commission would be charged with writing a report and legislation to “improve the long-term fiscal condition of the government, reduce deficits and debt, achieve a sustainable ratio of debt to gross domestic product by fiscal 2039 and improve the solvency of federal trust funds, including those that finance Social Security and Medicare,” according to Roll Call.
Supporters of the bill point to the fact that it takes a bipartisan approach to the nation’s debt crisis and mainly seeks to investigate potential solutions. But it didn’t take long for Social Security advocates and a few Democrats to push back against the bill out of fear that it could lead to cuts to programs like Social Security.
“Republicans are plowing ahead with their closed-door commission designed to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, said in an email statement shared with GOBankingRates. “Many of the Republicans tried to claim that was not their goal, but they tellingly voted down Democratic amendments to rule out cutting those programs and instead require billionaires to pay their fair share.”
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) chimed in as well, saying in a statement that congressional Republicans are “resorting to schemes that short-circuit the legislative process, rushing through cuts to Americans’ earned benefits,” according to a Newsweek report.
“The term ‘fiscal commission’ is the ultimate Washington buzzword, and it translates to trading away Americans’ earned benefits in a secretive, closed-door process,” Wyden added. “Instead of trying to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Republicans should work with Democrats to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share, which would go a long way towards securing Social Security and Medicare long into the future.”
But the bill’s proponents counter that something must be done to tackle national debt that has now topped $34 trillion.
“Let’s look at this unfunded liability that’s going to bankrupt the country and let’s come up with a plan that will give our children the same freedom and opportunities we’ve had. That’s why we do this,” Arrington said in remarks to the committee. “Is it perfect? No. Is any process perfect? No … Ultimately, Congress is gonna have to make the decision.”
Despite all the back-and-forth, nothing is likely to happen anytime soon. As The Hill noted, now that the bill has advanced beyond the committee stage, the fiscal commission has a deadline of Dec. 12 to issue its report and propose legislation that each congressional chamber would vote on.
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