The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Pence seeks ‘common sense’ Social Security, Medicare reform

- By Meg Kinnard

As he mulls a 2024 presidenti­al bid, former Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday called for “common sense and compassion­ate solutions” to reform entitlemen­t programs and the nation’s debt burden, suggesting changes to Social Security and Medicare programs hurtling toward insolvency, particular­ly for younger generation­s, without naming specific recommenda­tions.

“What we need now is leadership because, if we act in this moment with the support of this generation, we can introduce common sense reforms that will never touch anyone who is in retirement, or anyone who will retire in the next 25 years,” Pence told an audience of college students at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. “It’ll just take courage to do it, and that’s where your generation will come in.”

What to do with Social Security and Medicare, as the programs close in on projected insolvency dates, has emerged as a dividing line for Republican­s seeking to lead their party in the 2024 presidenti­al contest.

Forecaster­s say Social Security won’t be able to pay out its promised benefits in about a dozen years, and Medicare won’t be able to do so in just five years. Economists say both programs will drive the national debt higher in the decades to come, forcing teeth-gritting choices for the next generation of lawmakers.

Pence — yet to announce a 2024 presidenti­al bid but saying Tuesday he was “continuing to pray and reflect” on one — has previously suggested tweaks for the programs, telling CNBC in February that cuts to Medicare and Social Security should be “on the table for the long term.”

“President Biden won’t even discuss common sense reforms of Social Security and Medicare, and too many leaders in my political party take the same position,” Pence said during remarks at Washington & Lee’s quadrennia­l mock presidenti­al nominating convention known as Mock Con. It predicts the presidenti­al nominee of the party out of power in the White House.

“If that frustrates you, good — it should, because it’ll be your generation that’s robbed of your dreams and opportunit­ies,” he said.

Pence’s ideas are broadly in line with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, already in the 2024 GOP race, who last week opened the door to potential cuts for younger generation­s. During a campaign rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Haley said that, while she wouldn’t touch the benefits of older people who retired with certain guarantees of a financial future, “the rules have changed” for “anyone new coming in this system.”

Other Republican­s likely vying for the party’s nomination disagree. At the Conservati­ve Political Action Conference this month, former President Donald Trump — officially mounting a third run — took a veiled jab at Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, calling out those who have proposed raising the age for Social Security or privatizin­g Medicare — positions Desantis has expressed support for in the past but has since abandoned.

“We’re not going to mess with Social Security as Republican­s,” Desantis, yet to announce a 2024 run, recently said.

Many leading Republican­s have recently sought to signal their unwillingn­ess to touch entitlemen­t programs, though the GOP has a long history of threatenin­g to slash the benefits. Democrats have pointed to a plan by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, introduced last year but later amended, that called for all federal spending legislatio­n to sunset in five years, subject to votes in Congress that could preserve programs.

Met with boos from congressio­nal Republican­s when he said during his State of the Union address that “some Republican­s want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” President Joe Biden last week took aim at “MAGA” Republican­s he said are intent on dialing back Medicare coverage for millions of Americans, promising to “defend and strengthen” the programs.

After Biden’s speech, Scott amended the plan to exempt Social Security, Medicare, national security, veterans benefits and other essential services.

 ?? AP PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE ?? Former Vice President Mike Pence faces reporters after making remarks at a GOP fundraisin­g dinner, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Keene, N.H.
AP PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE Former Vice President Mike Pence faces reporters after making remarks at a GOP fundraisin­g dinner, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Keene, N.H.

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