Lawmakers must be willing to make difficult decisions that include changing the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare and adjusting benefits according to income in order to battle the deficit, Sen. Lindsey Graham argued Sunday.
“We’re so far in debt we’re never going to get out of it unless we look at each other around this table and say it is time to sacrifice,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
These and other items in a deficit reduction plan by the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform should be looked at more closely, Graham said. The plan, however, did not win enough votes from the commission’s members to formally advance to Congress.
Sen. Jeff Sessions agreed that entitlements “are throwing off, basically, surpluses,” the Alabama Republican said on “Face the Nation.”
However, he argued that the difference needs to be made up in other ways. “We cannot go to our Social Security recipients, our Medicare recipients and demand big cuts in what they are going to receive so Congress can continue to spend its discretionary money. And we’ve got to set an example,” he said.
Congress and the president need to reduce their budget plans, Sessions added. “We’re not going to sink into the abyss if we reduce spending in America.”
Graham argued that “we’re just all talk” if lawmakers don’t adjust the retirement age and benefits for those in upper income levels. “So I’m ready, willing and able to make the hard decisions about age and means testing on [Medicare] Part D,” he said. “Why in the hell should the federal government be buying my prescription drugs?”
Such an approach might call for exceptions for high-income earners who worked at “really hard labor jobs,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. “Maybe you should treat them better and treat them differently in the system,” the Minnesota Democrat added on “Face the Nation.” “I think it’s really worth looking at some of the ideas in that report.”
Graham also promoted a closer look at a tax reform idea in the fiscal commission plan that involves “a flatter tax with very few deductions.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.