Sen. Scott introduced S.925, the Federal Agency Sunset Commission Act of 2021, which says, "This bill provides for the establishment of the Federal Agency Sunset Commission to submit to Congress a schedule for review and abolishment of each agency. Each agency shall be abolished unless reauthorized by Congress. For each agency, the commission must schedule a date of abolishment to occur at least once every 12 years."
Scott's legislation doesn't explicitly mention Social Security or Medicare, but they are some of the biggest "Federal Agencies." Scott's denial means he would expect those agencies to be reauthorized by Congress, and hence claims his intent isn't to sunset them. But his legislation would require Congress to vote affirmatively to keep those programs--or be automatically abolished.
Sen. Scott introduced S.925 with 4 co-sponsors, and the "Federal Agency Sunset Commission Act" was simultaneously introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Michael Cloud as H.R.2199 with 11 co-sponsors. That means 17 legislators, all Republican, put their names on the sunset plan -- it's not just Rick Scott's plan!
Is McConnell right that sunsetting isn't in the GOP plan? Well, let's look at the Republican Party platform of 2016. It calls for retirement savings "options that are voluntary & portable". Social Security is neither voluntary nor portable, so the GOP is calling for major reforms. McConnell is only right that most Republicans don't use the term "sunset".
Biden appears to have been referring to a proposal from Sen. Rick Scott. Tucked into a policy manifesto Scott released was the line: "All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again." Democrats seized on the language as proof that the GOP wanted to do away with the nation's social safety net. Even some Republicans joined in: Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that Scott's recommendation "will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda."
In an interview after the speech, Scott said of Biden: "First off, he's a liar." Scott said that he doesn't favor Social Security or Medicare cuts but that benefits will be reduced unless the programs are shored up financially. "He's been lying about me for a year," Scott added.
"That's not a Republican plan. That was the Rick Scott plan. The Republican plan, if we were to become the majority, there were no plans to sunset Medicare or Social Security," McConnell said.
"I mean it's just a bad idea," McConnell added. "I think it will be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own reelection in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any state in America."
Biden distributed pamphlets of Scott's plan, saying that "the very idea the senator from Florida wants to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every 5 years I find to be somewhat outrageous, so outrageous that you might not even believe it."
"Anybody who doubts it, contact my office," Biden said. "I'll give you a copy of the proposal." The president was referring to a proposal last year from Republican Senator Rick Scott that would have required Congress to reauthorize the programs every five years and would have made Medicare and Social Security vulnerable to cuts.
On Tuesday, the president suggested that Republicans in the chamber were agreeing not to cut Social Security and Medicare. "So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?" Biden said. "We got unanimity!" Biden shouted over cheers in the chamber.
During his speech [Republicans shouted "No!" when Biden mentioned a sunset plan, and Biden responded], "As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?" Biden said. "We got unanimity!" Biden shouted over cheers in the chamber.
That moment led to praise from social media users, who argued that Biden had successfully baited Republicans into making a public commitment not to cut Social Security and Medicare. [One OpEd writer] wrote: "Dark Brandon gets Republicans to cheerily promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare live during the #SOTU speech!"
"This rather savvy usage of the public bully pulpit, in a nutshell, is the argument for continuing to have and televise SOTU," tweeted 2020 Pulitzer prize nominee Soraya McDonald, sharing a video of the moment.
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