Romney to OMB Director: It’s offensive and dishonest to claim that Congress wants to cut Social Security benefits

Argues the President’s budget does nothing to protect Social Security, which will run out of money in next 10 years

WASHINGTON—At a Budget Committee hearing today to discuss the President’s budget, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) engaged in a heated exchange with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young who claimed that members of Congress are proposing cutting benefits for current Social Security recipients. He rejected her claim as dishonest and offensive, and highlighted how the President’s budget fails to include a plan to save Social Security, which is projected to run out of money in the next 10 years—triggering automatic benefit cuts. Senator Romney advocated for a bipartisan effort to work together to save Social Security and protect Medicare.

Their exchange can be found below and full video can be found here.

On the deficit:

Senator Romney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know, I think it’s helpful if we’re going to be responsible as we consider discussions about our spending and the budget. If we put COVID funding aside—because I think it’s embarrassing to suggest the President has reduced the size of the deficit or reduced spending as a percentage of GDP. When we had COVID, when we were in the midst of COVID, we passed extraordinary measures. The President’s wealth went far beyond Congress with a $1.9 trillion plan. To say somehow that he’s been cutting the deficit is just not realistic, and Senator Scott described the change in actual federal funding on a baseline basis. I think if you’re serious about discussing the budget and what’s going on—what our needs are—putting COVID funding aside is essential for that conversation.

On disingenuous claims Republicans want to cut Social Security benefits:

Romney: I’m not aware of anyone in this category, but are you aware of any one of the elected officials we have in the federal government, at the Congress or anywhere else, that have…currently proposed cutting benefits for Social Security of any kind?

OMB Director Young: Senator, I have heard of proposals…

Romney: No, no, you’ve heard of proposals from a current Senator…or congressman currently proposing to cut benefits to Social Security?

Young: Yes. Have they changed their position? Maybe? But yes, members who are current members.

Romney: No, no, no. I said has anyone, in the last several months or the last year, has anyone, Republican or Democrat, proposed [cutting] Social Security benefits?

Young: Now you’re asking if people have changed their position? Maybe? But there are records…

Romney: Excuse me. Are you aware of anyone? Are you aware of anyone proposing cutting Social Security benefits?

Young: Your first question—current members have well-known policies out there to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Romney: That’s simply wrong! That is simply wrong! And it’s not honest to say that to members of Congress. That is simply wrong! There is no one who’s recommending cutting Social Security benefits, all right, number one. Number two, do you recognize that in the next ten years or so, the trust fund on Social Security is going to run out, and under the law, benefits would be cut dramatically, like 25%? Are you aware of that?

Young: I’m aware.

Romney: Yeah, that’s a problem, right?

Young: Of course.

Romney: Well, why is it, then, that in the President’s budget, there’s no effort to address that whatsoever? … Why does the President’s budget not lay out how you would protect Social Security?

Young: This President believes the existential threat to Social Security is those who want to cut it. His budget says…

Romney: There’s nobody in this committee that wants to cut it! 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! We have a problem in Social Security. We need to address it! You agree we have a problem in Social Security. [Let’s] make it clear—1,000%. No Republican is proposing cutting Social Security benefits. Now, the question is, why have you not proposed in your budget any action to protect Social Security?

Young: Senator, I look forward to seeing plans that are very clear in black and white…that they will not cut Social Security … This president has put it in black and white. We look forward to seeing a plan that suggests that Social Security is off the table. This president believes the biggest threat to Social Security of those who want it, cut it. His budget says no.

Romney: You know, I really do find that just offensive in the extreme, which is you can’t name anyone who is proposing cutting Social Security benefits. I have said, and I know my colleagues, no one is proposing cutting Social Security benefits for our Social Security recipients. No one is proposing that on our side. And you keep on saying that’s the biggest threat. The biggest threat is in ten years or so, the Social Security trust fund runs out of money and benefits get automatically cut by 25%. We don’t want that to happen! I’m upset that the President hasn’t included any effort to address that shortfall because I want to protect Social Security benefits for all of our recipients!

On Medicare and raising taxes:

Romney: Now, the question I have is, you do fortunately look at Medicare [in the budget] and suggest, “hey, we need to take action to protect Medicare.” I agree with that. I’m glad you do. You propose, however, the only solution is not cutting costs at all, but only raising taxes. Do you believe there’s any prospect that Republicans are going to vote to raise taxes only as a way to save Medicare?

Young: For those [making] over $400,000? I hope so, that they would raise them.

Romney: No, I said do you believe that Republicans in the House and in the Senate are going to vote to raise taxes and nothing else, just raise taxes to save Medicare?

Young: Well, that is not the only proposal. If you look at the net investment income tax, which was always created to go into the Medicare Trust Fund and was not. We suggest moving that over as a part of keeping Medicare extended by at least 25 years. So that’s one part of the proposal that is not a raising of tax.

Romney: Do you believe that it makes sense for a bipartisan effort to work together to find compromise positions, common ground, to actually save Social Security and protect Medicare?

Young: Yes.

Romney: Thank you.