February 03, 2020

Senator Hirono, 37 Senate Colleagues Demand President Recommit to Funding Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and 36 of their colleagues sent a letter to President Trump demanding he retract comments he made about being open to cutting earned benefits like Medicare or Social Security to pay for his tax giveaway to corporations and the richest Americans.

Trump’s comments are some of the clearest he’s made on the issue since becoming President, and could pave the way for massive cuts to retirement income and health care benefits that workers have earned and paid into throughout their careers. Potential cuts would have a major impact in Hawaii—19.1 percent of residents receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, 21.2 percent are enrolled in Medicaid, and 18.9 percent are enrolled in Medicare. 

“As a presidential candidate, you promised the American people that you would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. In fact, you criticized your political opponents for failing to make the same promise. Not only have you broken that promise, you have waged an all-out assault on Medicaid,” the Senators wrote. “Attempting to make up the trillion-dollar deficit created by your tax law on the backs of hard-working Americans would be a betrayal to all who consider these programs a lifeline. American workers who for decades have paid into Social Security and Medicare should not be forced to relinquish their health and retirement security to pay for your tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.”

Congressional Republicans have sought cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid for years. Senator Hirono has stood strong against these efforts in Congress and questioned the sincerity of Trump’s campaign promise to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—leading 15 of her Senate colleagues in urging Trump to issue a public statement that he would keep this promise after taking office. His comments in Davos, 1,057 days later, reveal that her skepticism was correct. She maintains a 100% rating from the Alliance for Retired Americans on voting to support seniors. 

In 2019, she reintroduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, legislation that restores fairness in contributions, while also increasing benefits for seniors and others. This bill phases out the cap on contributions into Social Security from wealthy Americans, so that everyone pays into the program at the same rate for the entire year. This change would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund nearly 20 years to 2053, while also allowing for a change in how benefits are calculated that better reflects the costs that seniors face and thereby increasing monthly benefits. Senator Hirono has introduced the legislation with Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) since 2015. 

In 2017, Senator Hirono and then-Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) forced a Senate vote on anamendment cosponsored by 31 of their colleagues to that year’s budget resolution that sought to prevent harmful changes to Medicare or Medicaid without a supermajority in the Senate. While the amendment received bipartisan support, it failed on a 49-47 vote. The amendment would prevent harmful changes including raising the eligibility age, modifying eligibility requirements, or privatizing and voucherizing the program. Social Security is already protected by a similar provision in law. 

Senator Hirono and 15 other Senate Democrats also introduced the Medicare and Medicaid Protection Act, modeled on her budget amendment, that would permanently set a supermajority voting threshold in law in order to provide additional guards to these vital health care programs against Republican attacks during the budget reconciliation process. 

 

A signed PDF of the letter can be downloaded here. The full text of the letter is below:  

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

January 27, 2020

Dear President Trump,

We are alarmed by comments you made this week while in Davos, Switzerland, that suggest you plan to cut vital entitlement programs. Asked if such cuts would be on your agenda, you responded: “At some point they will be […] toward the end of the year,” and that cutting such critical programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would be “the easiest of all things.” We urge you to retract these statements and publicly commit to protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the remainder of your Presidency.

Social Security and Medicare are vital programs that millions of Americans earned and rely on. Medicare provides quality health insurance for 44 million older Americans and people with disabilities. Social Security provides critical income for 64 million Americans. Cutting these programs would be a direct attack on working Americans, and would violate the repeated promises you made not to cut Social Security or Medicare as a presidential candidate.

In 2017, you signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), legislation passed by a Republican-controlled Congress that lavished the wealthy and corporations with significant tax cuts. Not only did these tax cuts go overwhelmingly to the wealthy–further fueling economic inequality–they also exploded our nation’s deficit. The tax cuts appear to be adding even more to the deficit than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected soon after TCJA’s enactment–due largely to dramatic reductions in corporate tax revenue.

Your tax law is fueling the budget deficit used by you and members of your administration to justify deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Following its passage, CBO estimated your tax law would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the 2018-27 period. Indeed, the Department of Treasury recently reported that the federal deficit surpassed $1 trillion in 2019. We will not allow the higher deficits brought about by your tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations to be used as a cynical justification to fulfill the long-held Republican endeavor to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

As a presidential candidate, you promised the American people that you would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. In fact, you criticized your political opponents for failing to make the same promise. Not only have you broken that promise, you have waged an all-out assault on Medicaid. Attempting to make up the trillion dollar deficit created by your tax law on the backs of hard-working Americans would be a betrayal to all who consider these programs a lifeline. American workers who for decades have paid into Social Security and Medicare should not be forced to relinquish their health and retirement security to pay for your tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.

We urge you to immediately clarify your plans for these programs, direct your administration officials to refrain from cutting or otherwise attacking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and publicly commit to the American people that you will not cut these earned benefits for the remainder of your Presidency. The American people who have paid for and rely on these programs deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

###