- Romney suggested he would favor cutting retirement benefits for younger Americans to address the debt.
- He warned the US could find itself in “a heap of trouble” if it didn’t take action.
- Calls to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits haven’t faded entirely among Republicans.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah suggested that he’d favor cutting retirement benefits for younger Americans in a bid to stabilize safety net programs.
“If we’re ever going to get a handle on our debt, we’re gonna have to find a way to either increase revenue, which I don’t favor, or find a way to adjust our long-term benefits not for current retirees,” he said at a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday, seemingly ruling out any tax hikes.
“But for younger people coming along, we got to be able to find a way to balance these programs or we’re gonna find ourselves in a heap of trouble,” he said. He didn’t specify which programs, but a pair of safety-net programs that provide benefits to retirees include Social Security and Medicare.
Romney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many Republicans at one point backed restructuring Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the national debt. Those programs make up around 41% of the government’s budget and form a perennial target for conservatives seeking to rein in federal spending.
But President Donald Trump split the party from that approach and campaigned on preserving Social Security and Medicare instead — a breach of long-standing GOP calls to trim those programs and rein in federal spending. However, the debt swelled by almost $8 trillion under the Trump administration as a result of tax cuts and spending increases.
Calls to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits have subsided, but not faded entirely. Last year, the House Republican Study Group released a symbolic budget that called for spending cuts across the board with no tax increases. The Medicare eligibility age would jump from 65 to 69. For Social Security, the retirement age would also rise to 69 by 2030, instead of remaining at 67 starting 2022.
Experts project that Social Security won’t be able to pay out full benefits starting in 2034, when its trust fund is depleted. The Medicare hospital’s trust fund won’t be able to cover its financial obligations starting in 2026, years sooner. But there’s little political appetite on both sides of the aisle to address it.
“The president is not putting forth a proposal that would cut those benefits,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at the hearing. “He’s not going to do that.”