Hirono Demands Funding For Earned Benefits

February 4, 2020, 10:44 AM HST · Updated February 4, 10:44 AM
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US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and 36 of their colleagues sent a letter to President Trump demanding he retract comments he made about being open to cutting earned benefits like Medicare or Social Security to pay for his tax giveaway to corporations.

In a press release, Hirono argued that Trump’s comments are some of the clearest he’s made on the issue since becoming President, and could “pave the way for massive cuts to retirement income and health care benefits that workers have earned and paid into throughout their careers.”

Potential cuts could impact Hawaiʻi—about 19 percent of residents receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, 21 percent are enrolled in Medicaid, and about 19 percent are enrolled in Medicare.

“As a presidential candidate, you promised the American people that you would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. In fact, you criticized your political opponents for failing to make the same promise. Not only have you broken that promise, you have waged an all-out assault on Medicaid,” Hirono wrote.

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“Attempting to make up the trillion-dollar deficit created by your tax law on the backs of hard-working Americans would be a betrayal to all who consider these programs a lifeline. American workers who for decades have paid into Social Security and Medicare should not be forced to relinquish their health and retirement security to pay for your tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.”

Congressional Republicans have sought cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid for years. Senator Hirono has contested these efforts in Congress and questioned the sincerity of Trump’s campaign promise to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—leading 15 of her Senate colleagues in urging Trump to issue a public statement that he would keep this promise after taking office.

In 2019, Hirono reintroduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, legislation that aims to restore fairness in contributions, while also increasing benefits for seniors and others. This bill phases out the cap on contributions into Social Security from wealthy Americans, so that everyone pays into the program at the same rate for the entire year. This change would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund nearly 20 years to 2053, while also allowing for a change in how benefits are calculated that better reflects the costs that seniors face and thereby increasing monthly benefits. Senator Hirono has introduced the legislation with Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) since 2015.

In 2017, Hirono and then-Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) forced a Senate vote on an amendment cosponsored by 31 of their colleagues to that year’s budget resolution that sought to prevent harmful changes to Medicare or Medicaid without a supermajority in the Senate. While the amendment received bipartisan support, it failed on a 49-47 vote.

Hirono says the amendment would prevent potential harmful changes including raising the eligibility age, modifying eligibility requirements, or privatizing and voucherizing the program. Social Security is already protected by a similar provision in law.

Sen. Hirono and 15 other Senate Democrats also introduced the Medicare and Medicaid Protection Act, modeled on her budget amendment, that would permanently set a supermajority voting threshold in law in order to provide additional guards to these vital health care programs against Republican attacks during the budget reconciliation process.

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