President Biden’s 2023 State of the Union was a bit more interactive than normal, with lots of booing, cheering, and even some direct back and forth between the president and members of Congress.
One of the most spirited moments came when the president accused Congressional Republicans of proposing plans that could result in the end of Medicare and Social Security.
“Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” he said, immediately prompting loud boos from GOP members in attendance. “I'm not saying it's a majority. Let me give you... anybody who doubts it. Contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.”
Several VERIFY viewers had questions about that exchange. Burl from Georgia said, “I want to know the names or bills of Republicans that want to cut Medicare that Joe Biden keeps talking about.”
Others simply wanted to know whether it was true that any Republican had floated such a plan.
Have any Congressional Republicans proposed to sunset Medicare and Social Security?
Republican Senator Rick Scott has proposed to require all federal legislation (which includes Medicare and Social Security) be reauthorized every five years, meaning it would expire if not renewed. However, even if the plan passed, Scott has said he would expect Medicare and Social Security to be reauthorized every time.
WHAT WE FOUND
In 2022, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) published a set of policy proposals he called his 11-point “Rescue America” plan, which has since been expanded to 12 points.
Point number six deals with government reform and debt. One of its proposals says: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years.”
Sunsetting is when a law is set to automatically expire unless Congress decides to renew it.
Medicare and Social Security were created by federal legislation, so it’s true this proposal would set them up to at the very least face a renewal vote every five years.
But Biden's statement still needs context. As he acknowledged, Scott’s proposal is unpopular even among Republicans.
When asked about the “Rescue America” plan in 2022, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “[Republicans] will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
Scott himself has also said that he would expect, even if his proposal somehow did pass, it wouldn’t end up affecting Social Security and Medicare, because they’re so popular Congress would renew them every time.
Nonetheless, regardless of intent, the language of the proposal does not exempt Social Security or Medicare from facing sunsetting every five years.
Scott has not brought his plan forward in the form of any actual bill in Congress – it remains a purely theoretical, and unpopular, proposal.
Following the State of the Union, the White House tweeted several other instances it argued showed evidence of Republican support for cuts to these programs, such as comments made in 2010 by now-Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in which he said "my objective is to phase out Social Security."