In the closing days of the 2022 midterm election, Democrats, including President Biden and former Presidents Obama and Clinton, have been accusing Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans insist these attacks are not true. On Thursday Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a moderate who is not up for re-election this year, gave his assessment of what Congress needs to do with entitlement spending.
Speaking virtually at a CEO conference, Manchin told Fortune CEO Alan Murray that Congress needs to work on passing bipartisan reforms to entitlement programs and cut federal spending.
“You’re going to get your financial house in order. We cannot live with this crippling debt,” said Manchin, whose previous objections to spending substantially watered down Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
“If we don’t look at the trust funds that are going bankrupt, whether they be Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, highway, all the ones — there are tremendous problems right now,” the West Virginia lawmaker said in response to a question about where Democrats and Republicans need to compromise.
“If we can’t come to grips of how we face the financial challenge that this country has, then we’re all going to be paying a price that we can’t afford,” he said.
Manchin has previously voiced concern that profligate federal spending would contribute to inflation. Nevertheless, he has voted for major legislation favored by Biden that drastically increased spending, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act.
Democratic attacks on the campaign trail ramped up in October after reports indicated some Republican lawmakers were eyeing next year’s debt limit hike as an opportunity to leverage spending cuts from Democrats. At an event for a Democratic House candidate in New York this week, former President Clinton claimed that if Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., becomes House Speaker, Congress will cut entitlement programs.
“He said if you vote for us, you didn’t cause this inflation, but you’re going to pay for it because here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to cut Social Security, we’re going to cut Medicare,” Clinton said.
When asked about Clinton’s remarks, a spokesperson for McCarthy directed Fox News to the leader’s Commitment for America plan, and its call to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”
Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., have also been accused of wanting to cut Social Security, with Obama yelling at an event in Milwaukee on Saturday that Johnson should not be the state’s senator because of his position.
Johnson fired back on Monday, accusing Democrats of lying because they cannot defend their inflationary policies.
“All they do is they trot out the same old lies, you know, the Republicans want to end Social Security, we want to put it on the chopping block. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Johnson told Fox News. “We want to save Social Security. We want to bring down inflation. We want to reduce massive deficit spending that sparked inflation.”
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.