List of Republicans Who Have Suggested Cutting Medicare, Social Security

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden was heckled by several Republican politicians after claiming "some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset."

In response to his remark, a number of Republican lawmakers were heard saying "no," House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted "liar" and Speaker Kevin McCarthy could be seen shaking his head.

"Let me give you—anybody who doubts it contact my office. I'll give you a copy of the proposal," Biden said.

The president appeared to be referencing a plan released last year by Senator Rick Scott of Florida, then chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which would introduce a five-year sunset clause for all federal legislation. Thus, Medicare and Social Security would have to be regularly renewed in order to remain law.

Republicans cutting medicare, social security
Clockwise from top left: Senators Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson. During his 2023 State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden said: "Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset." Drew Angerer/Getty; Anna Moneymaker/Getty; Anna Rose Layden/Getty; Greg Nash/AFP/Getty

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell later insisted the plan "will not be part" of his party's legislative agenda.

After Biden's address had finished former President Donald Trump gave a surprisingly rosy appraisal of his performance, saying he should get "credit for trying" and "ended up the evening far stronger than he began" on his Truth Social website.

Notably, Trump, who has announced he will run again for president in 2024, has come out firmly against Medicare or Social Security funding cuts. Last month, he said in a video message: "Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security."

Newsweek has compiled a list of prominent Republicans who have previously either explicitly, or implicitly, called for cuts to Medicare or Social Security payments.

Mitch McConnell

Speaking in October 2018, McConnell called "entitlements," a term usually deployed to describe welfare payments like Medicare and Social Security, "the real drivers of the debt," adding they need to be adjusted "to the demographics of America in the future."

McConnell also described the GOP's failure on the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, as "the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view."

Ron Johnson

In August, Republican Senator Ron Johnson suggested Medicare and Social Security should cease being federal entitlement programs, and instead require approval every year as "discretionary spending."

"If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost," he said. "And our problem in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It's on automatic pilot. It never, you just don't do proper oversight. You don't get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt."

In response, House Majority leader Chuck Schumer said: "The junior senator from Wisconsin wants to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block."

Speaking to The Washington Post, Johnson's office later denied he wanted to end Medicare or Social Security.

Lindsey Graham

In June, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham argued "entitlement reform" was needed to stop the U.S. from becoming like Greece, during a debate with Vermont's Bernie Sanders.

Graham made a similar argument nearly a decade earlier in December 2012, when he called for "real structural reforms to save Medicare and Social Security from bankruptcy and prevent our country from becoming Greece."

Marco Rubio

Speaking to two Politico journalists in 2017, Florida Senator Marco Rubio called for "structural changes" in U.S. welfare provisions.

"We have to do two things," he said. "We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future."

Mike Lee

Utah Senator Mike Lee claimed his goal was to "phase out Social Security" in February 2010, during a campaign stop in his state's Cache Valley.

He commented: "People who advise me politically always tell me it's dangerous and I tell them, 'In that case, it's not worth my running.' That's why I'm doing this, to get rid of that. Medicare and Medicaid are of the same sort, they need to be pulled up."

The senator told Newsweek in a statement in November that this is no longer his position, commenting: "This attack by my opponent is straight out of the Democrat playbook.

"Throughout my first campaign and from the day I took office, I have been clear: we must honor our commitments to retirees. That has been reflected in every vote I've cast, every bill I've introduced, and every speech I've given regarding Social Security."

Rick Scott

Whilst he hasn't explicitly called for Medicare or Social Security to be axed, Senator Rick Scott chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee when it proposed all federal laws should be eliminated after five years, unless Congress votes to keep them. The proposal was made as part of the 2022 Rescue America plan, though Mitch McConnell insisted it wasn't party policy.

A Washington Post editorial warned the proposal could "could mean an end to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, everything else mentioned above—and potentially more."