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Democratic group omits details of Budd votes on Social Security, Medicare
If Your Time is short
- The ad cites Budd’s votes on two bills.
- In 2017, Budd supported a GOP plan that would keep Social Security funds solvent by reducing future benefits and gradually raising the retirement age.
- In 2021, he voted against a bill that delayed scheduled cuts to Medicare. The bill was paired with legislation that raised the debt ceiling — which is why Budd voted against it.
A top Democratic political group says a Republican U.S. Senate candidate could leave voters working more and earning less.
The Senate Majority PAC is targeting U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who’s running against Democrat Cheri Beasley for the North Carolina seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr. The ad, titled "Now this," is one of several that the political action committee launched in late October attacking swing-state Republicans over their ideas for Social Security.
In the ad, a narrator says:
"You already know Ted Budd’s family company screwed over North Carolina farmers. And Budd cosponsored a national abortion ban so out of the mainstream, it includes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. And now this: Ted Budd voted to cut Medicare and Social Security and voted to raise the retirement age too—which means if Ted Budd becomes our senator, you will be working more and earning less."
PolitiFact has already checked claims about Budd’s family company and Budd’s stance on abortion. We wondered, though, whether Budd had actually voted to cut Medicare and Social Security.
In an October debate, Budd said he will "not touch" Social Security and Medicare for those who are on it or "near to receiving it." Asked if young people could expect the same benefits, Budd said young people could stabilize Social Security by getting jobs and paying into it.
As for Budd’s votes on the programs, it turns out there’s some truth to the ad’s claims as well as some missing context. In an email to PolitiFact North Carolina, the PAC cited Budd’s vote on a proposed amendment to the concurrent budget resolution passed for the fiscal year ending in 2018. The final version of the GOP-authored bill outlined how Congress should spend money and overhaul the tax codes for the next decade.
The proposed amendment featured an alternative budget plan from the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House members focused on limiting government spending. That RSC proposal, which failed, would have incorporated the late Rep. Sam Johnson’s "Social Security Reform Act."
Johnson’s legislation for years has been considered one of the more comprehensive and serious attempts to shore up Social Security before reserves run out around 2034. His recommendations remain the backbone of the RSC’s Social Security reform proposal — something Democrats are amplifying ahead of the midterm elections.
Budd is a member of the RSC and this year thanked the group for including some of his proposals, saying: "The RSC budget always provides a breath of fresh air to the liberal leadership we currently have in the House. … I’m proud to work with RSC to advance conservative principles."
As for the 2017 proposal, Senate Majority PAC pointed to an analysis conducted by the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. It said the RSC proposal, by adopting Johnson’s plan, would eliminate Social Security’s shortfall and make the program sustainably solvent by slowing initial benefit growth for higher-earners, gradually raising the normal retirement age to 69, and means-testing annual cost-of-living adjustments.
An analysis by the Social Security Administration found that by 2030, the program would be about 25% smaller than it is today. Raising the retirement age cuts benefits for everyone, but that would come gradually. The current RSC proposal makes clear that changes would have "no effect on those currently receiving Social Security benefits or those 55 and older."
"It looks like the RSC 2017 budget does change Social Security and Medicare, though it comes down to what we mean by ‘cutting’ those programs," said Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst and modeling manager at the Tax Foundation.
"For example, Social Security reform would ‘slow initial benefit growth for higher-earners,’" and do the other things highlighted by the Committee for a Responsible Budget," Watson said. "That generates savings in the future but isn’t a cut to benefits today."
Researchers at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based policy organization, found that Johnson’s plan would pay lower-income beneficiaries more than they would receive if lawmakers did nothing and automatic cuts took place. It would shift payments from people with high incomes and lifetime earnings to those with lower incomes and lifetime earnings.
As for Medicare, the Committee for a Responsible Budget said the RSC’s proposed 2017 budget would have reduced Medicare spending by nearly $900 billion over a decade by converting Medicare to a premium support system for new beneficiaries, increasing means testing, and aligning the program’s eligibility age with the Social Security normal retirement age.
The Senate Majority PAC also cited Budd's vote in December on S.610, known as the "Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act." Democrats have accused opponents of the bill of wanting to "slash Medicare," a claim PolitiFact addressed last year.
The bill itself did not cut Medicare. It staved off cuts to Medicare that would have happened automatically without congressional action.
The bill suspended for three months a 2% Medicare "sequester" that was scheduled to begin at the end of the year and, separately, delayed a 4% cut to Medicare provider payments scheduled to start in January, Roll Call reported.
That’s not all the bill did. The bill and its construction were controversial partly because Democrats tied the Medicare parts to legislation that raised the federal government’s debt limit by $2.5 trillion.
Although 10 Republicans supported the bill in the Senate, almost no Republicans supported it in the House. Critics told Roll Call they believed Democrats could raise the debt ceiling on their own. Budd voted against the bill, saying in a Dec. 14 press release that the federal government should strive to "operate with efficiency and fiscal responsibility," adding, "I cannot participate in enabling Washington’s spending addiction."
The Budd campaign says the Senate Majority PAC’s accusations about Social Security are inaccurate partly because their on-screen citation is misleading. The ad cites an Oct. 5, 2017, vote on "H. Con. Res. 71" — the budget resolution — while their accusation is based on an amendment proposal to that budget.
In an email, Budd campaign adviser Jonathan Felts described the ad as desperate.
"It's been five years since this bill and no cuts have been made," he said. "They are trying to find loopholes to hit Ted on because they have nothing."
The Senate Majority PAC says "Ted Budd voted to cut Medicare and Social Security and voted to raise the retirement age, too."
Budd supported a proposal that would have retooled Social Security and, years from its implementation, would have provided some Americans with fewer benefits than recipients are currently offered. He also voted against a bill that protected Medicare from scheduled cuts.
However, the ad ignores that the proposed Social Security changes were not immediate. It also overlooks key details of Budd’s vote last December: he voted against a bill that raised the debt ceiling and staved off cuts to Medicare.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.
Video ad by the Senate Majority PAC, "NC-Now This," posted to YouTube on Oct. 24, 2022.
Email exchange with Maryam Ahmed and Veronica Yoo, spokespeople for the Senate Majority PAC.
Email exchange with Jonathan Felts, senior adviser to the Ted Budd for senate campaign.
PolitiFact, "Democrats attack Republican Social Security plans. What’s in them?" published Oct. 26, 2022; "Context needed for Grassley comment about Medicare vote," published Dec. 16, 2021; "Putnam ad exaggerates DeSantis votes on Social Security, Medicare," published Aug. 9, 2018.
Stories by Roll Call, "Democratic super PAC ads focus on Social Security in final stretch," published Oct. 25, 2022; "Medicare cuts scare helps put debt limit bill on fast track," published Dec. 13, 2021; "Conservatives Lay Down Marker on Debt Ceiling," published Sept. 7, 2017; "RSC Budget allows conservatives to lay down austere marker," published Oct. 3, 2017.
Congressional budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2018, also known as H.Con.Res.71, and proposed amendment 455, which introduced the Republican Study Committee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
The "Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act," also known as S. 610.
The "Social Security Reform Act of 2016," also known as H.R. 6489.
The Republican Study Committee’s "Blueprint to save America" for Fiscal Year 2023 and "Securing America’s Future Economy" for Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
Urban Institute, "Comparing Democratic and Republican approaches to fixing Social Security," published Dec. 2020.
Letter from the Social Security Administration to the late Rep. Sam Johnson sent Dec. 8, 2016.
Analyses by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "The Republican Study Committee's Budget ‘Securing America's Future Economy,’" published Sept. 11, 2017; "Johnson Introduces Social Security Solvency Legislation," published Dec. 9, 2016.
Press releases from U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, "Rep. Ted Budd’s proposals included in Republican Study Committee FY 2023 budget," issued June 9, 2022; "Rep. Ted Budd statement opposing raising debt ceiling over $31 Trillion," issued Dec. 14, 2021.
Story by the New York Times, "House passes budget blueprint, clearing path for tax overhaul," posted Oct. 26, 2017.
Story by the Washington Post, "Congress approves measure that would raise debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion," posted Dec. 14, 2021.
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Democratic group omits details of Budd votes on Social Security, Medicare
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