Time Is Running Out for Dems to Combat GOP Threat to Social Security, Medicare

Republicans are threatening to use an impending battle over the debt limit to force cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits. Democratic leaders are under increasing pressure from progressives as well as rank-and-file legislators to stop the GOP ploy and significantly increase or eliminate the arbitrary federal borrowing limit.

A group consisting of House Democrats under the leadership of Rep. Brendan Boyle (D.Pa.) is collecting signaturesFor more information, please visit: letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use the dwindling months of the current Congress to “take legislative action that will permanently undo the threat posed by the debt limit.”

“If the counterintuitive nature of the current debt ceiling process is not reason enough to drive change, then the prospect of Republicans sending our economy into default for political gain should be,” reads the letter, which has thus far been signed by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), and several others.

“It is no secret that Republicans will weaponize the debt ceiling the first chance they get,” the letter adds. “In our view, the state of the U.S. economy is simply far too important for us to allow a scenario in which Republicans are able to even have the option to put our standing on the global stage in jeopardy for some perceived political gain.”

The Democrats’ call, first reportedFriday by Punchbowl NewsThe progressive advocacy groups Indivisible, Social Security Works and Social Security Works support.

Potential solutions mentioned in the letter include authorizing the U.S. Treasury Department to unilaterally raise the debt limit — which dictates how much money the federal government can borrow to meet its obligations — and permanently eliminating the ceiling, a step progressives have long supported.

Josh Bivens from the Economic Policy Institute wrote that a blog post amid last year’s debt ceiling clash — which Democrats ultimately ended without GOP support by suspending the filibuster to raise the ceiling — the limit “serves no good economic purpose and plenty of malign ones.”

Bivens argued that the “leverage the debt ceiling provides to those looking to enforce austerity is its greatest — and often most-overlooked — danger,” pointing to the GOP’s past success in securing passage of economically damaging legislation during debt limit fights.

“It is obvious that the U.S. should join the vast majority of rich countries around the world who don’t have a debt ceiling,” Bivens wrote. “It would be most straightforward if Congress would abolish it straightaway.”

Fresh calls for Democrats to put a stop to the annual fights over the debt ceiling come as Republicans are vocally threatening to oppose raising the current borrowing limit of around $31.4 trillion — which the government is set to hit sometime next year — in order to force spending cuts, specifically targetingMedicare and Social Security.

“I think Republicans are uniformly in support of using that moment as an opportunity to do something about spending,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) told CBS NewsJust two days after Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.), House Minority leader, McCarthy made similar comments on Thursday in an interview. Punchbowl.

Democrats have very little time to counter the GOP threat to Social Security and Medicare. entire U.S. economy.

The Boyle letter stresses that with the November midterms less than three weeks away, the makeup of the next Congress is “not yet known.” If Democrats lose the House or the Senate, the post-election lame-duck session will be the last chance they get to act without needing GOP support.

Whether Democrats will seize the chance to stop Republican hostage-takingIt is not clear. Two Democratic aides told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig on Thursday that it is “unlikely the party will act in the lame-duck.”

“It’s within their power to pass a party-line bill before the next Congress that would effectively eliminate the debt ceiling by raising it to an astronomically high number, but members fear being attacked for the vote,” Zeballos-Roig reported.

In a columnThursday, The New Republic’s Matt Ford lamented that “Democrats could end this farce at any time and have Not yet done so.”

“I don’t mean to deny culpability on the Republicans’ part in this state of affairs,” Ford wrote. “It is absolutely the case that they can quite simply vote not to plunge the country into an economic depression when given the chance.”

“But if January rolls around, a Republican-led Congress sweeps into power, and Democrats effectively hand over the hostage, the rope to tie them up with, and the gun to press to their left temple,” he added, “they are the ones who will be truly responsible for what happens next.”