Do Republicans Want to Get Rid of Social Security? What They've Said

During last night's State of the Union address, President Joe Biden said accused Republicans of wanting to strip Medicare and Social Security by allowing the programs to "sunset."

"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Social Security and Medicare to sunset," Biden continued. "I'm not saying it's the majority of you."

This was met with boos, heckling and shouts from lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene saying Biden was a "liar."

Several Republicans tweeted that Biden's suggestion was untrue, including Representative Jerry Carl.

Biden clarified, saying he did not mean a majority of Republicans support cutting Medicare and Social Security, but it is being proposed by individuals he is "politely" not naming.

Do Republicans Want To Cut Medicare And Social Security?

Over the past few years, the White House has accused Republicans of wanting to cut Medicare and Social Security. And as GOP lawmakers propose spending cuts to raise the debt ceiling, Democrats fear Republicans mean to impact those benefit programs.

But after the interruptions and heckling during the speech last night, an agreement was then apparently made. Biden seemed to interpret the outrage from Republicans as a bipartisan agreement to protect those policies.

"We agree Medicare is off the books now," he said to a bipartisan standing ovation. "We got unanimity!"

He added that if anyone tries to cut Social Security or Medicare, "which apparently no one's going to do," he would stop them with a veto.

During his debt ceiling address last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said cuts to Medicare and Social Security "are off the table" for debt limit discussions.

McCarthy shared a graphic during the address Tuesday night claiming that Biden cut Medicare by $300 billion to fund green projects.

On Wednesday, the White House shared a thread Wednesday noting GOP lawmakers who have threatened to cut these programs, including Rick Allen, Mike Lee, Lindsay Graham, Ron Johnson and Steve Scalise.

"If Republicans in Congress don't want to cut Social Security and Medicare, they should propose a budget that reflects it. Until then, all they've got is their record," the White House said.

Republicans Clarify Stance on Social Security

Several Republicans were on the defense after the address, claiming Biden's accusations are not true and promising Medicare and Social Security are not at risk.

Rick Scott

Florida Senator Rick Scott clarified his potion of Social Security and Medicare after Biden's address.

Biden has previously criticized the senator's plan. At an event for "lowering costs for American families" in Florida last November, Biden read Scott's plan for sunsetting legislation, calling it "outrageous." The plan, however, did not specifically reference Medicare or Social Security.

Scott said his plan suggests that all federal legislation sunsets in five years, and if it's worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.

"This is clearly and obviously an idea aimed at dealing with ALL the crazy new laws our Congress has been passing of late," he told Newsweek in a statement. "Joe Biden is suggest that this means I want to cut Social Security or Medicare is a lie, and is a dishonest move."

"This is the kind of fake, gotcha BS that people hate about Washington," he continued. "I've never advocated cutting Social Security or Medicare and never would."

Scott added that Biden and the Democrats did cut Medicare last year and "they lie about it."

Last August, Scott and other members of the Senate Aging Committee accused Biden of launching a "war on seniors" by cutting Medicare and raising taxes in a recession.

He said Biden's "been supporting cuts to Medicare and Social Security for decades."

Ron Johnson

Biden has criticized the Wisconsin Senators, including Ron Johnson, in the past for saying five years is too long to wait to phase out federal legislation.

The president said Johnson believes these policies should "be on the chopping block" every year.

In August, Johnson 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."

He later denied that he wanted to cut the programs.

Byron Donalds

Florida Representative Bryon Donalds told CNN Wednesday that the only person saying Republicans are considering Social Security cuts is Biden.

"He's been lying to the American people," he said. "No Republican on the Hill has said 'Hey for debt ceiling, we're going to look at Medicare and Social Security.' It is not true."

Mike Lee

In a recap of the address with Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Utah senator Mike Lee said Biden made false claims about Republicans in his speech.

"The President of the United States looked us right in the eye and mischaracterized what half the people in the chamber believe," he said.

He added that the president made several claims that were untrue.

A video from 2010 has resurfaced in recent years, however, showing Lee's intentions to "phase out" Social Security.

"I'm here right now to tell you one thing you probably have never heard from a politician: It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up from the roots and get rid of it," Lee said during a campaign stop February 23, 2010, in Cache Valley, Utah. "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."

Lee has also stated that he was against "entitlement programs" that "redistribute wealth," noting those programs are not in the Constitution.

Steve Scalise

Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise said accusations like the one Biden made Tuesday have been "going on for a while."

"I hope the president stops trying to tell that story. He at least acknowledged at the end that Republicans want to strengthen Social Security and there is no plan to get rid of it," he said.

Scalise, the second-highest ranking House Republican, added Republicans want to strengthen Social Security.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Scalise directed Newsweek to an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham in which Scalise said Biden's accusation that Republicans want to cut Medicare and Social Security a "false premise."

"He loves throwing this out there, and we called him on it," he said. "Everybody's like, 'Who are you talking about?' And so then he had this weird interaction with the members of Congress, and finally at the end of it realized, 'Okay, so none of you are for doing that.' And you know, it's Mr. President, stop telling all of these lies."

He added that Biden "undermined" these programs by paying billions of people to not work.

"Millions of people that are sitting at home being paid—they're not paying into Social Security," Scalise said. "So how about we actually have an honest conversation about how to get our country and our economy back on track."

Fox News questioned Scalise in November about the Republican Study Committee's plan to change Social Security.

He said the budget wants to "sure up" and strengthen Social Security, not cut it.

Newsweek has reached out for comment from Lee, McCarthy and Johnson.

Republicans Deny Wanting to Cut Medicare
(L-R) US Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) yell as US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, February 7, 2023. Several Republicans were on the defense after the address, claiming Biden's accusations are not true and promising Medicare and Social Security are not at risk. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Update: 02/08/23 4:06 p.m. ET: This article was updated with information Scalise's spokesperson.