WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said progressives in Congress and “working people” are going to hold President-elect Donald Trump accountable if he does not follow through on his promise to protect Social Security or Medicare benefits from cuts.
Sanders emphasized that the job of lawmakers in Washington is to “expand” Social Security and “improve” Medicare rather than cut them.
“Our job is to expand Social Security, not cut it, and we understand that despite Medicare today millions of seniors still struggle with healthcare bills. Our job is to improve Medicare, not to cut it,” Sanders said at a press conference on Capitol Hill last week with the organization Social Security Works.
“You told the seniors of this country you were on their side. You told working people you were on their side,” Sanders said of Trump.
“Millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise, and we’re going to tell the Republican leadership in the House and we’re going to tell the Republican leadership in the Senate to forget about all their plans to voucherize Medicare, to raise the retirement age for Social Security, to slash Medicaid – it ain’t going to happen,” he said.
According to projections in the latest Social Security and Medicare Trustees report, Social Security’s “combined trust fund reserves” for retirement and disability will become “depleted” in 2034 without congressional action, and Medicare’s reserves could run out of funds by 2028.
Speaking at the press conference, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) characterized Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, as one of the most “avowed enemies” of Medicare in the country.
“He’s going to get some heck of a hearing when he comes before us in the Senate,” he said.
Schumer challenged Republicans to back away from changing the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare.
“We will win, you will lose. Turn back before it’s too late,” he said.
Schumer claimed Price would like to see doctors “run the whole show” at HHS because he is a physician himself.
“There are some good doctors and there are some not-so-good doctors. We have all seen both,” Schumer said. “That’s what privatization means: let your doctor charge you whatever he or she wants. We don’t want that to happen.”
Schumer elaborated on his remarks later in the press conference.
“Medicare right now sets limits on prices because it is government-run. Privatization means the private sector – both the insurance companies and the doctors – set the price without regard to what the patients can afford,” he said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also criticized Price’s record on healthcare issues.
“Chairman Price voted three times to remove the Medicare guarantee, probably 64 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act – maybe more, and again, has been supportive of the privatization of Social Security,” she said. “So, it’s a great deal at risk here.”
Pelosi said progressives are “going to mobilize, expose, and defeat Republicans’ deeply damaging scheme to end Medicare.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) called Price an “anti-Medicare and anti-Medicaid person.”
“I’m so happy to hear he’s going to have the confirmation hearing of a lifetime to explain how he is going to support his new president and protect those programs,” she said.