Biden back on the attack — hits GOP for threatening Social Security

It was treated as a political coup inside the White House when, during the president’s State of the Union address this past spring, he more or less goaded Republicans into saying that cuts to major entitlement programs would not be part of their debt ceiling demands.

When the deal ultimately came together, President Joe Biden explicitly touted that he kept Social Security and Medicare off the chopping block.

But that was last week.

This week, the White House has begun warning anew that Republicans are coming after those social insurance programs, in what seems destined to be an oft-repeated line between now and November 2024.

A memo from deputy press secretary and senior communications adviser Andrew Bates seizes on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s announcement that he would be forming a congressional commission that would look into broader deficit and debt reduction. McCarthy’s directive was to examine “the entire budget,” and he noted, “The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It’s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.”

The memo goes on from there:

The Wall Street Journal reinforced this, reporting that Speaker McCarthy “wants to organize a bipartisan commission to look at the entirety of government spending, including mandatory spending programs like Medicaid and Social Security.” ….

These new statements from the Speaker demonstrate that the House GOP are reversing the promise they made to President Biden and the country in the State of the Union, and that to shield billionaires and multinational corporations from paying a cent more in taxes, they very much intend to slash Americans’ Medicare and Social Security benefits.

The American people – including majorities of conservatives – reject that approach, and support President Biden’s work to stand up for the benefits they pay their entire lives to earn.

There is something decidedly D.C. about the exchange, with each side engaged in some sleight of hand: A memo (giving the appearance of a more serious response than a statement) being put together to chastise the possible creation of a commission (being put together to stave off demands for actual legislation).

But it does underscore something larger about Biden world’s political bearing.

A president who has made the pursuit of bipartisan deals a calling card over the past year has clear limits on the places he will go for those deals. He also has some well-honed instincts — and very clear polling — about how to run campaigns and what makes voters tick … or scared.

During the 2022 midterms, abortion may have been the preeminent issue for Democrats on the ballot. But not too far behind were attacks on Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) for proposing a budget blueprint that called for entitlement cuts (the senatorended up having to backtrack).

The issue of entitlement programs also played prominently in Biden’s re-election announcement. And he hit on them again Tuesday in comments at the outset of a cabinet meeting, noting that his just-signed spending agreement with the GOP “protects Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, veterans’ care, and economic progress like the $470 billion in private investment we’ve attracted to the United States in manufacturing, clean energy, and our historic investments to fight climate change.”

Republicans, to a degree, understand it is a vulnerability. Months before Biden’s State of the Union address, Donald Trumpwarned congressional Republicans not to touch Social Security or Medicare in the debt ceiling negotiations. But, as Bates’ memo notes, a faction of the party never was comfortably on board with keeping those programs untouched. And in the debt ceiling deal aftermath, McCarthy has tried to throw that faction a bone. He may have given the White House one, too. McCarthy’s office did not return a request for comment.

Read the full memo here.