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House Republican budget calls for raising the retirement age for Social Security

A budget by the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 170 GOP lawmakers, highlights how many in the party would seek to govern if Republicans win in November.
Close-up of American social Security cards.
House Republicans suggested raising the retirement age for Social Security.marcusamelia / Getty Images / iStockphoto

WASHINGTON — A new budget by a large and influential group of House Republicans calls for raising the Social Security retirement age for future retirees and restructuring Medicare.

The proposals, which are unlikely to become law this year, reflect how many Republicans will seek to govern if they win the 2024 elections. And they play into a fight President Joe Biden is seeking to have with former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party as he runs for re-election.

The budget was released Wednesday by the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 170 House GOP lawmakers, including many allies of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Apart from fiscal policy, the budget endorses a series of bills “designed to advance the cause of life,” including the Life at Conception Act, which would aggressively restrict abortion and potentially threaten in vitro fertilization, or IVF, by establishing legal protections for human beings at “the moment of fertilization.” It has recently caused consternation within the GOP following backlash to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that threatened IVF.

The RSC, which is chaired by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., counts among its members Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his top three deputies in leadership. Johnson chaired the RSC from 2019 to 2021; his office did not immediately respond when asked about the new budget.

For Social Security, the budget endorses "modest adjustments to the retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy." It calls for lowering benefits for the highest-earning beneficiaries. And it emphasizes that those ideas are not designed to take effect immediately: "The RSC Budget does not cut or delay retirement benefits for any senior in or near retirement."

The new budget also calls for converting Medicare to a "premium support model," echoing a proposal that Republican former Speaker Paul Ryan had rallied support for. Under the new RSC plan, traditional Medicare would compete with private plans and beneficiaries would be given subsidies to shop for the policies of their choice. The size of the subsidies could be pegged to the "average premium" or "second lowest price" in a particular market, the budget says.

The plan became a flashpoint in the 2012 election, when Ryan was GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, and President Barack Obama charged that it would "end Medicare as we know it." Ryan defended it as a way to put Medicare on better financial footing, and most of his party stood by him.

Medicare is projected to become insolvent in 2028, and Social Security will follow in 2033. After that, benefits will be forcibly cut unless more revenues are added.

Biden has blasted Republican proposals for the retirement programs, promising that he will not cut benefits and instead proposing in his recent White House budget to cover the future shortfall by raising taxes on upper earners.

The RSC budget also presents a conundrum for Trump, who has offered shifting rhetoric on Social Security and Medicare without proposing a clear vision for the future of the programs.

Notably, the RSC budget presents three possible options to address the projected insolvency of the retirement programs: raise taxes, transfer money from the general fund or reduce spending to cover the shortfall.

It rejects the first two options.

"Raising taxes on people will further punish them and burden the broader economy–something that the spend and print regime has proven to be disastrous and regressive," the budget says, adding that the committee also opposes "a multi-trillion-dollar general fund transfer that worsens our fiscal situation."

That leaves spending cuts.

The RSC budget launches blistering criticism at "Obamacare," or the Affordable Care Act, and calls for rolling back its subsidies and regulations that were aimed at extending insurance coverage.