Home Retirement Social Security Cuts: What Is ‘Poison Pill’ Commission and Will It Threaten Future Benefits?

Social Security Cuts: What Is ‘Poison Pill’ Commission and Will It Threaten Future Benefits?

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United States capitol in Washington DC with a Social Security card and money.

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A new fiscal commission established by the U.S. House to investigate ways to reduce the federal deficit really wants to push through cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits, according to a Social Security advocacy group.

Social Security Works, a progressive-leaning organization that aims to protect and expand Social Security and similar programs, lashed out at the commission in a pair of press releases issued last week. In one dated Jan. 16, Social Security Works President Nancy Altman referred to the commission as a “poison pill designed to slash Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors.”

Altman also cited White House comments comparing the commission to a “death panel” for Social Security and Medicare.

“Republicans are plowing ahead with their closed-door commission designed to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Altman said in a follow-up press release dated Jan. 18. “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.”

As previously reported by GOBankingRates, earlier this month the House Budget Committee passed a bill to establish the bipartisan fiscal commission that aims to solve the federal government’s budget problem without specifically protecting Social Security or Medicare.

The committee approved the bill 22-12, with three Democrats joining 19 Republicans in passing the measure.

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 critics to push back against the bill.

In a statement, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) claimed that congressional Republicans are “resorting to schemes that short-circuit the legislative process, rushing through cuts to Americans’ earned benefits.”

“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 currently exceeds $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,” Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) 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. 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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