Manchin Promises To Protect Social Security And Medicare While Endorsing Bill That Guts Both

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Earlier this year, Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released a bill called the CAP act, which would prevent the government from spending more than 20.6 percent of GDP in any given year (unless the cap is waived by a supermajority vote in Congress). As I laid out at the time, actually adhering to this cap would require huge cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and would keep federal spending below where it was during the Reagan administration, even though there are now tens of millions more seniors reliant on Social Security and Medicare than there were in the 1980′s.

Today, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced his support for the CAP act, but at the same time said that he wants to protect Social Security and Medicare:

Today, I will be announcing my support for two proposals that I believe provide a good starting point and framework from which we can move forward,” he will say, according to excerpts released by his office. “But let me be also clear — one of my top priorities will be to make sure that whatever final debt fix emerges, it will keep our promises to our seniors by protecting Social Security and Medicare. I believe we can do this and cut our debt and deficits over time.”

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, here’s the effect of the CAP act on Social Security and Medicare:

In dollar terms, mandatory programs would be cut by nearly $630 billion in 2021. Social Security would be cut by $237 billion, Medicare by $161 billion, and Medicaid by $105 billion. As noted earlier, from 2013 through 2021, the cumulative cuts would total about $1.3 trillion in Social Security, $856 billion in Medicare, and $547 billion in Medicaid. If, instead of following the Corker-McCaskill formula for automatic cuts, all programs were cut by the same percentage, then all programs would be cut 14 percent in 2021 — or one of every seven dollars. Over the 2013-2021 period, the cuts would total $904 billion in Social Security, $602 billion in Medicare, and $386 billion in Medicaid.

As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein put it, the CAP act is “arguably the most radically conservative reform that could be made to the federal budget. More extreme, by far, than Paul Ryan’s plan.” Yet, lawmakers think that they can enact it while simultaneously protecting the largest, most important federal programs. Corker announced yesterday that he wants to attach the CAP act to legislation that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling.