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White House Slams Manchin-GOP Push for Social Security, Medicare Commissions

The TRUST Act is a ploy to gut Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors, says one progressive advocacy group.

Sens. Joe Manchin, center, Ted Cruz, left, John Hoeven, foreground, and Bill Cassidy are seen during a senate vote in the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2021.

The Biden White House made clear on Monday that it opposes the creation of commissions to devise changes — and possible cuts — to Social Security and other U.S. trust funds, rejecting an idea embraced by Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin amid a dangerous standoff over the nation’s debt ceiling.

In a statement to Bloomberg Government, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates called the proposed commissions a “death panel for Medicare and Social Security,” repurposing a term that GOP lawmakers used frequently in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

Bates said the GOP’s renewed push for Social Security and Medicare commissions represents the “latest in a long line of ultimatums about how they’ll act to kill jobs, businesses, and retirement accounts if they can’t cut Medicare and Social Security benefits.”

The commissions in question are central to legislation known as the TRUST Act, which Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Manchin (D-W.Va.), and other lawmakers reintroduced in 2021 and have frequently touted as a potential path to a bipartisan compromise on Social Security and Medicare.

But advocates warn that the commissions — modeled after the infamous Obama-era Bowles-Simpson initiative — are an attempt to fast-track cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Under the TRUST Act, bipartisan panels of lawmakers would be established with a mandate to craft “legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves” the programs — a vague and highly subjective standard.

The legislation would then receive expedited consideration in Congress, with no amendments permitted.

As recently as last month, Manchin floated the TRUST Act as a possible way to reach a deal with the House GOP to avert a debt ceiling disaster. Republicans have demanded steep cuts and changes to Social Security, Medicare, and discretionary spending — which includes education, healthcare, and climate outlays — as part of any deal to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit.

Bloomberg Law reported Monday that House Republican committee and caucus chairs have gotten behind the idea of forming Social Security and Medicare commissions in recent days.

“I don’t believe we’re going to do what is necessary and right, which is save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, without having a bipartisan mechanism,” Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), chair of the House Budget Committee and a co-sponsor of the TRUST Act, told the outlet.

Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy group that has been a vocal opponent of the TRUST Act, applauded the White House’s stated opposition to the TRUST Act.

“They are absolutely right — the TRUST Act is a ploy to gut Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors,” the group tweeted late Monday. “We need to expand Social Security’s modest benefits, never cut them.”

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