Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon told 3,358 senior citizens in a telephone Town Hall Thursday that she would not do anything to threaten their Social Security or Medicare benefits, but she declined to say exactly how she would preserve the programs.
“You’ve earned it. You rely on it and there’s nothing I would do to change that,” McMahon tried to reassure seniors in a conference call hosted by AARP.
Nora Duncan, executive director of AARP Connecticut, said there are currently 622,000 seniors who receive Social Security benefits and 571,000 Medicare recipients in the state of Connecticut. An estimated 16.4 percent of Social Security recipients rely on the program for more than 90 percent of their income and 47.6 percent rely on it for more than 50 percent of their income.
“We know Social Security and Medicare are facing insolvency and we have to strengthen them and preserve them,” McMahon said. However, she declined to offer specifics when questioned by seniors because she said her comments would be “demonized.” She made similar remarks following last week’s final debate between her and Democrat Chris Murphy, who will join AARP members for a similar phone call Friday morning.
She said the discussion about how to make the two entitlement programs solvent needs to happen in a bipartisan manner and everything should be on the table.
“I have declined when asked before what specific measures would I say are the things that we have to do,” McMahon said. “Because what happens is they really get demonized, you have no opportunity when you’re sitting then in a bipartisan room to talk about them.”
Anticipating what Murphy may say about her positions in a phone call with seniors on Friday, McMahon tried to make her comments from earlier in the campaign more clear.
She said Murphy is fond of saying she would “sunset” Social Security, but that’s absolutely not her position.
McMahon told a group of Tea Party Patriots back in April that she would consider adding a “sunset provision” to Social Security, but she didn’t mean to imply the program should be sunset just that it should be reviewed every 10 to 15 years.
But she said she would not support any proposal to privatize these entitlements “because I don’t think that’s the way we should go.”
She said that’s where she would differ with her party.
“We have to sit down in a bipartisan way in Congress and make sure Social Security and Medicare are there for generations to come,” McMahon said.
“I think we have to put every single thing on the table and work it out between Democrats and Republicans and then have our CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, put the economics or the scoring next to that to see what really does make sense so we’re not kicking this can down the road,” McMahon said. “I want a permanent solution so I can make sure we protect both of these programs.”
Until that happens, McMahon said she’s not willing to go through a list of “potentials.”
Sandra from Windsor Locks asked McMahon if she would favor getting rid of the salary cap on contributions to Social Security in order to increase the solvency of the fund.
“Sandra that is one of the things we need to put on the table and discuss,” McMahon said. “All of those issues we need to put on the table and discuss in a bipartisan way.”
She said the salary cap is something she’s willing to consider.
But she’s not willing to consider a voucher system for Medicare.
“I’m an independent thinker and I won’t always vote down party lines,” McMahon said. “I will evaluate what I think regulations, recommendations, and laws are before I vote on them and a voucher system is something that I do not agree with with my party.”
McMahon declined to talk about Medicare and Social Security in her first campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010, but after U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was selected as Republican Mitt Romney’s running mate discussion on the campaign trail was unavoidable.
McMahon’s campaign was quick to put out a statement saying she wouldn’t support any cuts to Medicare.
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed 52 percent of voters believe Murphy will do a better job on Social Security and Medicare, while 39 percent felt McMahon would do a better job on those two issues. However, the same poll found that 48 percent of voters believe McMahon has better ideas about creating jobs, while 38 percent of voters believe Murphy has better ideas.