President Biden was heckled by several Republicans during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, after he referred to some GOP lawmakers saying they want to sunset Medicare and Social Security.
"I'm not saying it's the majority," Biden said. "Other Republicans say if we don't cut Social Security and Medicare, they'll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history. I won't let that happen."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was heard yelling "Liar!" as other Republicans protested. "Let me tell you, I enjoy conversion," Biden quipped, before using the boos to bolster his case for protecting Medicare and Social Security. "So tonight, let's all agree — and apparently we are — and stand up for seniors," he declared. "Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security! We will not cut Medicare! Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned it." Biden added that if "anyone is trying to cut Social Security, which apparently nobody is trying to do, I'll stop them. I'll veto it."
As of 2022, about 66 million people receive Social Security benefits, while nearly 64 million are enrolled in Medicare. Earlier this month, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said when it comes to negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, cuts to Medicare and Social Security are "off the table." In 2022, however, two Republican senators — Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) — proposed making changes to the programs, with Johnson suggesting during a podcast interview in August that entitlements should be eliminated.
"Social Security and Medicare, if you qualify, you just get it no matter what the cost," Johnson said. "We ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so it's all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken, that are going to be going bankrupt."
Scott released an "11-point plan to rescue America," proposing that Congress reauthorize Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' benefits every five years.
The midterm elections were nine months away at the time. "If we're fortunate enough to have the majority next year," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot back, "let me tell you what would not be part of our agenda: We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years."