Joe Biden Tried to Sunset Social Security, All Other Federal Programs as a Senator

Then-Senator Joe Biden in February 1976.

Joe Biden introduced legislation that would sunset all federal programs, including social security, every four years when he was a freshman United States senator in 1975.

On Tuesday night at the State of the Union, Biden stated that “some Republicans” wish to “sunset” social security and Medicare, leading to significant pushback from GOP lawmakers on the House floor while millions watched.


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said on several occasions that Republicans in the House – where the framework to a debt ceiling resolution will be formed – are not seeking to slash the programs as part of their desired cuts to offset the $31.7 trillion debt ceiling reached last month. He shook his head in disagreement when Biden made the claims from the rostrum.

On Thursday, Biden spoke at the University of Tampa in Florida and noted that Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) “Rescue America” policy plan included a proposal to sunset all federal legislation every five years.

“If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” the plan adds.

Biden said that maybe Scott had “changed his mind, maybe he’s seen the Lord – but he wanted to… sunset social security and Medicare every five years.”

But Biden made an even more aggressive proposal when he represented Delaware in the United States Senate, seeking “to sunset all federal programs, including social security and Medicare,” every four years, Fox News reported, when he introduced S. 2067 on July 19, 1975. Biden’s central argument for reviewing all programs was the rapid increase of the federal budget.

“It is not just the size of our budget that is staggering, but even more the rate at which it is increasing,” Biden said at the time. “We cannot long continue such growth rates in expenditures.”

“In brief, this bill limits to 4 years the length of any spending authorization for a program,” he added. “Furthermore, it requires that each committee make a detailed study of the program before renewing it for another 4-year period.”

He then echoed a very similar sentiment to Scott’s.

“The examination is not just of the increased cost of the program, but of the worthiness of the entire program,” said then-Sen. Biden.

Scott issued a statement after the president spoke in Florida Thursday and challenged him to a debate on the matter.

“Joe Biden spent 20 years trying to slash Social Security and Medicare. Does he really think Americans are stupid enough to believe anything he said today?” the senator wondered. “The President should accept my invitation to debate him on this issue. Floridians deserve to know the truth about Biden’s war on Social Security and Medicare.”

While Republicans desire cuts to federal spending outside of social security and Medicare, according to McCarthy, Biden has floated tax hikes as a way to offset the debt ceiling. However, his posturing that he would not negotiate with the GOP over cuts seems to have changed following the State of the Union standoff.

Biden said Thursday that McCarthy “has been reasonable in terms of discussion with me so far,” before expressing his openness to negotiating the upcoming budget proposals.

“I said, ‘Look, why don’t we just – I think it’s the first week of March – why don’t we just lay out our budgets, you put yours down, I put mine down, and our people sit and compare them. Decide where we can make a compromise if we can make a compromise,” the president recalled.


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