SUN SENTINEL: Florida Democrats see Republican posturing on debt limit as reckless, warn of threat to Social Security and Medicare

f t # e
Washington, January 23, 2023 | comments

Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation sought Monday to portray Republicans who control the U.S. House as reckless for their posturing on the coming showdown about increasing the federal debt limit, warning it could produce an economic catastrophe.

And they wielded something that has proven to be a potent political weapon in Florida — home to millions of seniors — the prospect ofRepublicans using the debt ceiling issue to extract cuts in Social Security and Medicare spending.

“We can’t be holding our nation and our seniors hostage just to score some political points. And so I’m here in solidarity with our seniors and with our working families across the state of Florida and with our delegation to call the Republican Party out on their B.S.,” U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Orlando, said in a video news conference.

Frost, the first Gen Z member of Congress, sounded the Social Security and Medicare alarm along with four of his FloridaDemocratic colleagues either on the video news conference or through a press release.

“We have MAGA extremists who control the gavel in the House, and they’re threatening to take our entire global economy hostage unless we sacrifice Medicare and Social Security. And the knife they hold to the neck of our economy is the debtceiling fight,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

“House Republicans are signaling that they will force a showdown with the White House over the nation’s debt ceiling, turning a debate over how much the federal government can borrow into an excuse to gut Social Security and Medicare,” she said.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and his new majority in the House have said they will push changes, such as overhauls to entitlement programs, in order for Congress to raise the debt limit.

Speaking Jan. 9 on the Fox Business Channel, U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz, R-St. Augustine Beach, said he was asked about priorities when it comes to controlling federal spending.

“I’m all for a balanced budget. We’ve got to get spending under control, but we are not going to do it on the backs of our troops and our military. ... We can work on reprioritizing defense spending but that’s really nibbling around the margins. If we really want to talk about the debt and spending it’s the entitlements program,” Waltz said. Social Security and Medicare are the biggest so-called entitlements.

The Biden administration wants the borrowing cap increased without any preconditions.

The issue echoes what happened in summer 2011, when a debt-ceiling standoff prompted the first downgrade on a portion of the federal government’s AAA bond rating by Standard & Poor’s.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., in a statement Monday lamented the “federal debt crisis that Biden and Democrats are determined to ignore, sticking their heads in the sand while families bear the consequences.”

He said it’s “time to reimagine government,” and called for term limits on members of Congress, giving the president a line-item vetoauthority on appropriations bills, and requiring two-thirds, instead of a simple majority, of senators and representatives to create new taxes or fees.

Last year, as head of the national campaign arm for Senate Republicans, Scott released a campaign platform that called for a periodic sunset and review of all federal programs, including Medicare and Social Security. That didn’t prove popular, and the Senate Republicans ended up losing ground on election day.

Last week, former President Donald Trump warned Republicans about the political danger of using the debt ceiling issue to try to force cuts in entitlement programs, POLITICO reported. “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, criticized what she called “the threat by the extreme MAGA Republicans.” U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Miramar, called it “an emergency issue,” adding that “Republicans want to play politics and hold that debt ceiling hostage.”

A protracted fight, leading to a default on U.S. debt or even the threat of default “means significant job loss and complete chaos for families,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

“The hypocrisy from House Republicans over the debt ceiling is beyond laughable. House Republicans put forward no preconditions when paying their American Express bills. The American people don’t get to dictate preconditions to Mastercard when their bill comes in the mail,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Parkland. " You don’t have a choice when it comes to paying your bills.”

f t # e