EXCLUSIVE: One of the leaders of a bipartisan Senate working group focused on extending Social Security accused President Joe Biden of “not engaging” with them as they scramble for a way to keep the vital program solvent past its expected expiry in nine years.
Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Angus King, I-Maine, said this month that “conversations are ongoing” to reform the Social Security program, but there’s been barely a word since. Several senators involved in the issue told Fox News Digital that they have not heard any updates in weeks.
Cassidy indicated to Fox News Digital on Thursday that Biden’s apparent unwillingness to meet is what’s holding the group from publicly moving forward. The president had previously accused Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, a claim that’s been furiously denied by the GOP.
“President Biden has never made himself available to hear about the Cassidy-King proposal to save Social Security from impending 24% benefit cuts,” Cassidy said. “Biden calls himself a deal maker; we can’t make a deal without him. By not engaging, the president is choosing that current retirees’ Social Security benefits are cut by 24%.”
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A Senate aide told Fox News Digital, “there have been multiple requests from both sides of the aisle to meet with President Biden, and those have not been met.” They stressed that the group was bipartisan and its membership is in “the double-digits.”
The aide said that staff-level talks have been ongoing between White House and the Senate, but that for the most part, no senior White House officials or lawmakers had been involved.
“There was one, I believe – the first meeting with the White House had senators and senior staff at the White House,” the aide said, adding that any talks since then had been “at a lower level.” The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Cassidy had previously implored the president to work with the senators working to extend Social Security on Fox Business. “If he really wants to meet with Republicans and Democrats to find a solution, we’re bringing one to him. By the way, he can still change it,” he said.
When asked by Fox News Digital on Wednesday whether he’d heard any updates, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said, “Not recently.” The senator also called the delay “disappointing.”
“I think it got kind of hijacked by folks running for higher office, who are suggesting that any attempt to improve Social Security would be seen as an attack on Social Security – and that’s not fair to the American public,” Rounds said. “I think it does the American public a real disservice.”
“But it has slowed down our discussions, because folks here say, ‘Well, gee, why even talk about making dramatic improvements if people that are going to be in the White House don’t even want to touch it?’ That’s just irresponsible,” the senator added.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told Fox News Digital, “I haven’t had an update in the last couple of weeks,” but noted that Cassidy and King were the leaders of the effort.
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“It’s one of the topics I’d like to see us address. We’re not going to cut benefits for anybody that’s in retirement or near retirement, that’s clear. But make sure that we save the system from a 25% cut, when the trust fund runs out in about a decade, is our priority,” Romney said.
Sen. John Cornyn told Fox News Digital that he “hadn’t heard anything recently” about the working group and he was “not aware of any” upcoming plans to meet.
King’s office did not immediately respond for comment to a Fox News Digital inquiry specifically asking to confirm that the Independent senator, who caucuses with Democrats, asked Biden for a meeting on the matter multiple times.
In early March, King suffered backlash from a Maine-based Union group over one of the reported proposals involving raising the retirement age to 70.
“Social Security is a critical lifeline for working-class people and we strongly condemn any action to cut it, including raising the retirement age,” the Maine AFL-CIO told the Maine Beacon earlier this month.
An op-ed in the Bangor Daily News said the reported Social Security proposals put King “to Susan Collins’ right,” referring to his Republican colleague in the Senate.
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