WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed Wednesday that House Republicans want to slash Social Security and Medicare as they push for spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit — despite House Speaker Kevin McCarthy repeatedly ruling out such cuts.
Jean-Pierre denounced social safety net changes — which McCarthy already took off the table — after being asked about President Biden saying Tuesday that “I have no intention of letting the Republicans wreck our economy” despite his own refusal to negotiate with Republicans on the federal debt limit.
“[Biden is] going to call out Republicans, in particular in the House, who are saying they want to cut Social Security, who have said very clearly they want to cut Medicare, they want to cut Medicaid or defense spending. This is what they are saying,” Jean-Pierre said.
“The president has said that he’s going to fight every day to protect those programs that taxpayers pay into. And we have to remember those programs, they benefit veterans, they benefit our seniors and taxpayers who again have earned the right to be part of those programs. So yes, he is going to call that out when he sees there is real danger against those programs.”
Jean-Pierre acted as if the House Republican majority intends to cut Social Security and Medicare despite McCarthy (R-Calif.) specifically ruling out cuts nearly 24 hours beforehand in a TV interview and then again in a Wednesday morning meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.).
On Tuesday, Fox Business anchor Larry Kudlow, a former Trump White House economist, asked McCarthy to respond to “these little White House weenies — they say you’re going to cut Social Security, you’re going to cut Medicare and you’re going to default on the interest payments on the bonds.”
“None of that is true,” McCarthy replied. “And that’s the bad part here. First the administration said they won’t negotiate and then they want to play politics. Why are they so afraid to sit down to find where you can eliminate waste?”
On Wednesday morning, Manchin met with McCarthy to discuss the debt ceiling impasse and told reporters afterward that the Republican leader agreed that Social Security and Medicare cuts shouldn’t be part of negotiations.
Biden himself claimed Tuesday that Republicans in Congress are “genuinely serious about cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare” — signaling it will be part of the White House’s concerted messaging in the debt-ceiling stalemate, which could last months.
In a Wednesday afternoon email to reporters titled, “Why would ANYONE think House Republicans are planning to cut Social Security and Medicare?” a White House official defended the messaging.
The White House official wrote the conservative Republican Study Committee, a group that represents 156 of 222 House Republicans, “called for privatizing Medicare and Social Security, and their current chair [Kevin Hern] targeted the programs again this week.”
Hern (R-Okla.) told the Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday that there should be a bipartisan law raising the retirement age for a “child who has not paid a single dollar in payroll taxes.”
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) told the Washington Post that “[n]o one needing Social Security right now, or expecting to get it in the near future, should be impacted” by such reforms.
McCarthy told Kudlow on Tuesday that he wants to trim government spending unrelated to entitlement programs. And others, such as the No. 4 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, have floated clawing back unspent portions of Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in 2021.
“It’s irresponsible for the president not to sit down to negotiate,” McCarthy said.
“All I’m asking for is a responsible debt limit increase. And that means find common ground. Where are we wasting money? Let’s eliminate that and let’s put us on a path that we can balance our budget.”
McCarthy also returned fire at Biden’s rhetoric blaming Republicans for potential economic harm, saying, “[Biden] is playing with the financial markets of America by saying he wouldn’t negotiate. We’ve hit the limit, so now we have until June or July.”