If you're concerned about the future of Social Security, it's helpful to understand what lawmakers in power have said about it. That's because those in a leadership position on the federal level could potentially make changes that affect benefits for the elderly.
Currently, the White House, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate are all controlled by Democrats. Most lawmakers on the left have voiced strong support for expanding Social Security and uniform opposition to any benefit cuts. After the midterm elections next November, however, it is very possible that control of the House or the Senate could change hands.
If the Republicans reclaim a Senate majority again, current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely become the majority leader. That's why this quote from McConnell about Social Security is so important.
The potential future majority leader has made his position on Social Security clear
Mitch McConnell recently addressed the issue of Social Security's future, stating, "If we're fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I'll be the majority leader. I'll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor. We will not have as a part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years."
McConnell's quote came in response to a plan put forth by Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Scott created "An 11-Point Plan to Rescue America," which he described as a blueprint for what the GOP might do if it took control of Congress. Among the other things in the plan, Scott called for all federal legislation to sunset after five years so Congress would need to approve it again if it was important.
This would have the effect of requiring Congress to vote regularly to reauthorize Social Security and Medicare. It would create substantial uncertainty for seniors and could pose problems for future retirees, who wouldn't necessarily be able to count on Social Security being available for them.
McConnell rejected this plan, though, and his words suggest that a Republican majority in the Senate likely would not pose a serious immediate threat to Social Security.
Is entitlement reform no longer on the table?
McConnell's words are important because they seem to reflect a shift in the Republican Party that has taken place in recent years.
Reforming Social Security has long been a priority on the right, with many Republican lawmakers expressing concern that the program's finances are in trouble. Traditionally, while the left was in favor of Social Security expansion, lawmakers on the right routinely proposed changes that would serve as a de facto cut to benefits. These included raising full retirement age or changing the way raises are calculated to make cost-of-living adjustments less generous.
However, former President Donald Trump embraced a more populist approach and said that he wasn't in favor of Social Security cuts that would leave less money for seniors. McConnell's assurances that Social Security wouldn't be subject to sunsetting may suggest other Republicans have embraced this shift and that cuts to Social Security may no longer be a priority -- or even a Republican goal at all.
If that is indeed the case and this trend continues, then current and future retirees may be able to enjoy greater confidence that they'll get all the promised retirement benefits they deserve.