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Biden calls out Republicans who heckled his State of the Union speech

Republicans booed when Biden accused them of wanting to cut Social Security. But the president pointed out that several of them have vocally supported such cuts.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called out Republican lawmakers who booed when he accused them of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare during his State of the Union address, pointing out that several of them have expressed support for those cuts.

"My Republican friends, they seemed shocked when I raised the plans of some of their members and their caucus to cut Social Security and Marjorie Taylor and others stood up and said, 'Liar, liar,'" Biden said in remarks on the economy at an event in DeForest, Wis.

Biden then pointed to a plan floated by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., last year when he chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "I got his brochure right here," said Biden, who held it up and read from it, "All federal legislation sunsets every five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again."

That would apply, the president said, to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Biden also mentioned how Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has said that Congress should reconsider such programs every year. During Johnson's competitive re-election race last year, he said at a campaign stop that Social Security “was set up improperly” and that it would have been better to invest the money in the stock market. Johnson also told a radio show that Social Security and Medicare should be axed as “mandatory” programs and be subject to “discretionary” spending, meaning Congress would have to renew them yearly or they’d end.

"There’s a senator named Mike Lee, who was also yelling, 'Liar, liar, house on fire' kind of stuff last night," Biden said, alluding to a 2010 video that recently surfaced in which the Utah Republican said it was his objective to phase out Social Security.

"They sure didn’t like me calling them on it," Biden said. "Look, a lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me just say this. It’s your dream, but I'm gonna with my veto pen make it a nightmare."

During his speech Tuesday night, Biden said that "some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years." As Republicans in the crowd began to loudly boo, he went off script and shot back: "As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now."

On Wednesday, Biden said the exchange effectively boxed Republicans into a deal. "It looks like we negotiated a deal last night on the floor of the House of Representatives," Biden said.

"All of you have been paying into the system every single paycheck you’ve had since you started working," the president said. "These benefits belong to you, the American worker. You earn it, and I will not allow anyone to cut them — not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Biden said in an interview Wednesday he was surprised by some of the GOP jeering the previous night, while adding that "the vast majority of Republicans weren’t that way."

"But you know, there’s still a significant element of what I call the MAGA Republicans — you know, the Make America Great Again Republicans — and I kind of anticipated [it],” Biden told PBS NewsHour.

Responding Wednesday to Biden's State of the Union address, Scott said in a statement that Biden has misunderstood his proposal to sunset all federal legislation in five years. "This is clearly and obviously an idea aimed at dealing with ALL the crazy new laws our Congress has been passing of late. Joe Biden is confused … to suggest that this means I want to cut Social Security or Medicare is a lie, and is a dishonest move … from a very confused President."

But the GOP has repeatedly pushed cuts to entitlement programs.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for example, proposed turning Medicare into a voucher system when he chaired the House Budget Committee and put out budget blueprints in 2012 and 2013. It was a plan backed by many Republicans at the time.

More recently, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced legislation last year that he and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, unveiled in 2019 that would allow parents to use a portion of their Social Security benefits for up to three months of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, said that under such a measure, "parents opting for parental leave would face permanent cuts to their Social Security retirement benefits."

Last year, the Republican Study Committee, a large group of House conservatives, also proposed a budget that would incrementally raise the retirement age to collect Social Security, based on changing life spans, and lower benefits over the long term by using a new formula.

Many Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have denied supporting cuts to these programs and recently said that those proposals would be off the table in negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

But not every Republican agrees with McCarthy. This week, Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., told Bloomberg News that despite McCarthy's comments, "I wouldn’t think it’d be off the table."