Republicans Take Social Security, Medicare ‘Off the Table’ in Debt Ceiling Talks

By Lawrence Wilson
Lawrence Wilson
Lawrence Wilson
Lawrence Wilson covers politics for The Epoch Times.
January 30, 2023Updated: January 31, 2023

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on Jan. 30 that Republicans won’t consider cuts to Social Security or Medicare in negotiations on raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“We’re not going to default,” Comer said. “But Republicans are going to fight for spending cuts. And I think the American taxpayer should be thankful that somebody in this town realizes that you can not continue to spend a trillion dollars a year more than you bring in.”

As for specific cuts, Comer said that everything except Social Security and Medicare would be “on the table,” during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

Balanced Budget a Priority

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a similar statement on Jan. 29 on “Face the Nation.”

Asked whether Republicans would consider changes to Medicare or Social Security, McCarthy said, “No. Let’s take those off the table.”

Both leaders struck a softer tone after weeks of posturing by both Republicans and Democrats over raising the debt ceiling.

McCarthy and President Joe Biden are scheduled to meet on Feb. 1 to discuss the matter.

Balancing the federal budget is the Republican’s primary objective in negotiating over the debt ceiling, according to Comer.

“Congress has gone for decades—both parties—on a spending spree. If the economy is as strong as President Biden claims, then now is the time to try to tighten the belt,” Comer said.

“We’ve got to get serious about trying to live within our means.”

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen listens to President Joe Biden in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Oct. 6, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Comer said cuts to defense spending would be examined in the effort.

Republicans, who have frequently been accused of “holding the debt limit hostage,” have signaled a willingness to compromise in arriving at cuts to future spending.

Biden had previously said he wouldn’t negotiate over the debt ceiling.

“I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip,” Biden said on Jan. 26 while making remarks on the U.S. economy in Springfield, Virginia.

McCarthy said, “I know the president said he didn’t want to have any discussions, but I think it’s very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise.”

Comer echoed that sentiment on Jan. 30.

“I hope that we are successful, at the end of the day, in trying to come up with meaningful compromises on spending cuts in the future,” he said.

Window of Opportunity

The United States would have exceeded its current debt ceiling on Jan. 19 but for “extraordinary measures” taken by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to keep the government solvent.

Those measures were to borrow from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund and suspend payments to the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.

That will likely keep the government solvent through early June, Yellen estimated in a Jan. 13 letter to McCarthy.

Comer said he understands the “drop-dead date,” after which the nation would default on its obligations, to be July 5.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.