Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged Republicans not to use deficit increases to justify future cuts to entitlement benefits Thursday in a heated exchange during a debate on their tax reform bill.
Senate Republicans are nearing a final vote on their bill to overhaul the tax code – with the promise that it will help people across the country by reducing rates and boosting economic growth. Democrats and other critics warn the bill mostly just benefits the rich and large corporations. Sanders, while speaking on the floor prior to an expected vote, argued that deficit increases from the bill would be used to justify cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“It is my absolute belief that as soon as this tax proposal is completed and drives the deficit up by $1.4 trillion, I have zero doubt that my Republican colleagues are going to come back to the floor of the Senate and suddenly say, oh my goodness, the deficit has gone up, we are going to have to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Sanders declared.
Sanders has proposed an amendment to the tax bill that would establish a rule requiring a two-thirds vote in order to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He promised he would withdraw the amendment if Republicans could guarantee to the American people that they won’t make those cuts – singling out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He yielded his time to talk so they could answer.
“I will not support any cuts to people who are on the program and need those benefits,” Toomey answered. “But I want this program to survive. We need this program for the next generation.”
Sanders prompting interrupted the senator to reclaim his time, arguing his answer clearly indicates he would cut benefits for future recipients, since he said he wouldn’t support cuts to people who are on the program. Sanders added that people in their 50s could soon see cuts to benefits since they haven’t yet reached retirement age and therefore aren’t recipients.
“He just let the cat out of the box, or whatever the phrase is,” Sanders shouted. “He just told you he’s going to cut Social Security. That’s it my friends. He will not cut it, what he just said is he will not cut it for people who are on Social Security right now. I hear that.”
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