Biden named names when talking about Republicans who have sought to reassess Social Security and Medicare after getting heckled on the subject during his State of the Union address a day earlier.
After batting down Republican hecklers during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Biden took his message on the road Wednesday, touting his economic record and warning Wisconsinites that Republicans might cut Social Security and Medicare.
“My Republican friends, they seemed shocked when I raised the plans of some of the members of their caucus to cut Social Security,” Biden told members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America at a LIUNA training center in DeForest, Wisconsin, near Madison. That led GOP lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to yell, “liar, liar, house on fire,” Biden said mockingly.
During his national address, Biden deliberately did not call out by name those Republicans who have called for reassessing or cutting Social Security and Medicare, programs American workers pay into through automatic payroll deductions. On the road, politesse gave way to politics.
First, there’s Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Biden said. “He has a plan – I’ve got his brochure right here,” the president added, waving the document in front of the audience.
He then read from the plan, which called for all federal programs to sunset every five years, requiring reauthorization and funding by Congress.
Scott – who has accused Biden of lying about the proposal contained in his 2020 campaign memo – took to Twitter on Wednesday to reiterate his complaint.
“Last night, @JoeBiden rambled for a while, but it seems he forgot to share the facts: In my plan, I suggested the following: All federal legislation sunsets in 5 yrs. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” Scott wrote.
That, indeed, means Social Security would not automatically die after five years. But it also means, the White House has noted repeatedly, that the popular program would face extinction of cuts every five years, subject to the whim of the Congress at that time.
Then Biden got local.
“By the way, you have a … uh… senator named Ron Johnson,” Biden said, coughing theatrically for effect as the crowd booed. “Ron Johnson on Social Security and Medicare, quote, ‘We should transfer everything, So we have to consider everything, every year,’” Biden quoted the Wisconsin Republican as saying.
Biden then singled out Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican who was among those who shook his head in defiance as Biden spoke about the threat to Social Security on Tuesday night.
News organizations Tuesday and Wednesday aired a video “I didn’t even know existed,” in which Lee is seen speaking to a small group and declaring that “my objective is to phase out Social Security, pull it out by its roots, get rid of it.” Medicare and Medicaid, Lee says in the 2010 video, “are the same sort.”
The White House was very pleased Wednesday over the unscripted exchange that occurred Tuesday night when Biden mentioned threats to the entitlement programs, saying the president called out Republicans on their true plans.
The back and forth ended with nearly the entire chamber standing and applauding when Biden asked that they all “stand up for seniors.”
The president has yet to make a formal announcement of a run for reelection but is in solid campaign mode as he, Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and his Cabinet embark on separate trips around the country to promote Biden’s record on the economy and infrastructure projects.
And while Biden taunted Republicans on the Social Security and Medicare chatter, he also held up the infrastructure law as an example of what bipartisan work could accomplish.
“We’ve got a lot of good, bipartisan stuff done in the previous year,” Biden said. “Why can’t we do it again?”
The president travels Thursday to Florida, home to two potential rivals for the presidency in 2024 – former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.