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AARP to Congress: Keep Social Security and Medicare out of Deficit Debate

Capitol Building in Washington, DC
Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images


En español | As Congress faces new deadlines to avoid a government shutdown in early March, AARP is sending a clear message to federal lawmakers: Keep potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare out of any government spending bills.

“We are deeply concerned that some in Congress want to include a fiscal commission that could cut Social Security and Medicare in the upcoming must-pass spending bills,” Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs, said Tuesday. “That’s just wrong. Social Security is not a driver of the nation’s debt, so it shouldn’t be cut to pay it off.”

Our members and volunteers sent more than 600,000 emails and made more than 1,700 phone calls to members of Congress in recent days echoing Sweeney’s concerns.

“AARP and our members have been vocal in our opposition, and we will not back down,” Sweeney added.

AARP raised concerns last month about a 22-12 House Budget Committee vote to advance the creation of a fiscal debt commission. The commission would be charged with recommending legislation to reduce government deficits and the national debt. Advocates and some lawmakers worry this will allow Congress to fast-track cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The vote "sets up a process where seven members of Congress can ram through drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare, without amendment, and without a full public debate,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in a Jan 18 statement.

Regardless of their politics, the vast majority of older Americans (85 percent) strongly oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare to reduce federal budget debts, according to AARP research.

“Social Security and Medicare are critical to American families. This is their money, and benefits they have earned,” LeaMond said. “AARP and the 100 million older Americans we advocate for will not stand by and watch their hard-earned benefits cut.”

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins raised similar concerns in a letter sent to every member of the U.S. Congress in November. In the letter, she pushed back against the idea that Social Security is a driver of annual deficits or the national debt, pointing out that the program is self-funded by workers and employers and not financed by general revenue.

“The national debt is a serious issue, and older Americans care deeply about the future of this country and leaving a legacy for their children and grandchildren,” Jenkins wrote. “Older Americans also care deeply about Social Security and Medicare, which is why these two programs should be protected in any discussion about the debt or deficit.”

Jenkins called on Congress to ensure any discussions about the future of Social Security and Medicare are done through a fully transparent process, saying it “owes it to the American people to be directly accountable and engage in open and public discussions about the programs.”

Read our Jan. 18 statement and learn more about how AARP is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP’s Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. Her work has also appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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