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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he does not support putting Social Security up for periodic reauthorization and would avoid cutting benefits to retirees if changes to Social Security were made under a Republican Congress.
Democrats have locked in on Social Security as a campaign issue during the midterm elections, criticizing proposals from some Republicans to subject the program and other federal legislation to periodic review. Grassley is seeking re-election and is challenged by Democrat Mike Franken, a retired Navy admiral from Sioux City.
“If we do anything on Social Security, one thing I want to make clear, we aren’t going to cut any benefits for people that are in retirement or near retirement,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday.
President Joe Biden went after Sen. Rick Scott’s 12-point policy plan in a speech Tuesday, saying the plan would jeopardize Social Security and Medicare every five years. In the plan, Scott calls for all federal legislation to sunset after five years, requiring Congress to pass it again.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., threw cold water on the idea, saying a Republican Senate agenda would not sunset Social Security and Medicare.
Biden also attacked Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin for proposing that federal mandatory spending, including Medicare and Social Security, be made discretionary and reviewed every year. Biden said the proposal would put the popular programs “on the chopping block” annually.
Grassley said any changes to Social Security would involve broad consensus. He didn’t specify what he would propose to improve the solvency of the program.
The Social Security Trust Fund that pays retirees is expected to be depleted by 2034 without any changes to the program, after which people would only receive 78 percent of their benefits, according to a 2021 estimate.
Franken proposed during a town hall in Cedar Rapids last week that everyone pay the same tax rate toward Social Security regardless of income. Currently, income on workers and employers is taxed at 6.2 percent toward Social Security up to $147,000.
“I believe the 147 cap ought to be omitted, ought to be released, so that an income as high as it may go, pays into Social Security to ensure solvency,” he said in an AARP “Pocketbook Conversation” segment this month.
Grassley’s campaign went after that position in an ad last week, pointing to it as a source of increased taxes Franken supports.
In a news release, Franken’s campaign said the proposal would ensure “the rich pay what they owe to keep Social Security afloat,” and that it would “not change what working Iowans pay by one dime.”