Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) grilled Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), about Social Security during a hearing Wednesday focused on President Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget proposal.
In a tense line of questioning, Romney pressed Young about whether she knew of any cuts to the program proposed by lawmakers. Biden has accused Republicans of trying to cut benefits.
“You’ve heard of proposals from a current senator or congressman currently proposing to cut benefits to Social Security?” Romney repeatedly asked Young during the hearing.
“Yes. Have they changed their position? Maybe, but yes. Members who are current—” Young began, before Romney doubled down, asking if any lawmakers has proposed cuts “in the last several months or the last year.”
Young responded that “current members have well-known policies out there to cut Social Security and Medicare,” to which Romney argued, “That is simply wrong, and it’s not honest to say that to members of Congress. That is simply wrong.”
Romney then asked Young if she recognized that the program’s trust fund is projected to “run out” in roughly the next decade, noting estimates that “benefits would be cut dramatically, like 25 percent.”
According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last month, Social Security’s funds are projected to run a shortfall in 2032, sooner than previously expected.
CBO Director Phillip Swagel also said then that benefits “would be more than 20 percent smaller than scheduled, if outlays are limited to what is payable after this trust fund exhaustion.”
“I’m aware,” Young said, acknowledging the funding threat as a problem.
“Well, why is it then that in the president’s budget there’s no effort to address that whatsoever?” Romney asked.
“While we clearly disagree on this, there are some who have policies on websites — I’m happy to print them and send them to the committee — whether they have changed our position, is another thing — who want to cut–” Young began.
“I’m sorry, you’ve got to answer the question, as opposed to [changing] the topic,” Romney said, as the two proceeded to go back and forth for a moment. “I asked a question, why does the president’s budget not lay out how you would protect Social Security?”
“There’s nobody in this committee that wants to cut it,” Romney said. “I know of no Republican or Democrat in the House or the Senate who is proposing cutting Social Security benefits, and it’s dishonest to keep saying it. It’s offensive and dishonest and not realistic.”
“This president believes the biggest threat to Social Security are those who want to cut it,” Young said moments later. “His budget says no.”
The heated exchange comes as the fate of Social Security has come to the forefront on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are feuding about budget cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt limit, which must be done in the next several months.
While Democrats have pushed for the roughly $31.4 million threshold to be upped without conditions, Republicans say the action must be paired with steep spending cuts, as some have also pushed for proposals aimed at balancing the federal budget in 10 years.
At the same time, GOP leadership has doubled down on vows not to link changes to Social Security to the debt fight, after some members floated linking potential entitlement reforms to a debt limit deal late last year.
The Republican Study Committee, the biggest conservative caucus in the lower chamber, has also received attention for proposals to tighten the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare.
But there is partisan divide over whether such proposals to raise the age threshold would classify as a “cut.”