- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2023

Sen. Rick Scott has revised his plan to overhaul the federal budget to exclude automatic sunsets for Social Security and Medicare from the proposal.

Mr. Scott, Florida Republican, unveiled his amended “Rescue America” on Friday after drawing weeks of criticism from President Biden who accused Republicans of looking to cut the popular entitlement programs.

The plan, which Mr. Scott unveiled last year while serving as the chair of the Senate Republican campaign committee, called for all federal programs to automatically sunset after five years unless Congress reauthorized them.

Mr. Scott’s original proposal did not specifically call for an end to Social Security and Medicare, nor did the original plan exclude those specific entitlements from the automatic chopping block.

Nonetheless, Mr. Biden and Democrats have pointed to Mr. Scott’s proposal in accusing Republicans of vying for draconian cuts to the two programs.

Those accusations have cast a shadow over attempts by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, to negotiate with the president on spending reform before agreeing to raise the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit.

On a visit to Mr. Scott’s home state last week, Mr. Biden held up a pamphlet of Mr. Scott’s plan as he railed against Republican spending proposals.

“I know that a lot of Republicans — their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Mr. Biden said. “If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.”

The issue also became a flashpoint at Mr. Biden’s State of the Union address earlier this month as the president bludgeoned the GOP over their supposed attempts to cut the programs.

Mr. Biden’s jabs over Social Security and Medicare have also driven a wedge between Republican lawmakers as GOP leaders have been forced to push back against Democrat talking points.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, clarified on Tuesday that Republicans have no intention to end the two programs during his weekly news conference.

“Let me say one more time: There is no agenda on the part of Senate Republicans to revisit Medicare or Social Security,” he said. “Period.”

Former President Donald Trump also chimed in with a direct shot at Mr. Scott in a bid to counter the Democratic talking point.

“Be careful, Rick, and most importantly, fight for Social Security and Medicare. THERE WILL BE NO CUTS!” Mr. Trump wrote on his social media platform TruthSocial.

Mr. Scott fired back at both Democrats and his GOP colleagues in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner explaining the changes to his proposal.

“I have never supported cutting Social Security or Medicare, ever. To say otherwise is a disingenuous Democrat lie from a very confused president. And Sen. Mitch McConnell is also well aware of that. It’s shallow gotcha politics, which is what Washington does,” Mr. Scott wrote.

The White House shows no sign of letting up, however, despite Mr. Scott’s amended plan which now includes language specifically excluding Social Security and Medicare among other essential services form the automatic sunset proposal.

“We congratulate Senator Scott on joining the post-State of the Union red wave of Republicans acknowledging that they have, in fact, been attempting to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said on Friday. “But make no mistake, his true colors are undeniable and on the record. Cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits is a longstanding passion of Senator Scott’s, as it is for the majority of House Republicans…”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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