WASHINGTON – The top Republican on the Senate budget committee championed a plan to drastically cut Social Security and Medicare, another in a series of signs that the GOP is gearing up to try and slash the cherished programs.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on Monday praised the "roadmap" put forth by his Republican House counterpart, budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would largely privatize Social Security and voucherize Medicare.
"Ryan has done a fabulous thing," Sessions said on ABC's Top Line. "He's developed a plan that goes 60 years, and he deals with Social Security and Medicare. A lot of those changes don't take place until the distant years of the future, but his whole plan and approach is fabulous -- we need to be listening to it, the president needs to be engaging it."
Sessions joins House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who on Sunday said Congress ought to "embrace" the direction of the plan in order to cut spending and reduce the national debt.
According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" would "privatize a substantial portion of Social Security" and "end traditional Medicare and most of Medicaid," replacing the programs with "a system of vouchers whose value would erode over time."
Republicans have elevated Ryan this month, appointing him as budget committee chairman and tapping him to deliver the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.
The US public overwhelmingly opposed reducing the scope of Social Security or Medicare, according to surveys, and proponents of the programs have argued that cutting benefits would gut a critical safety net for seniors, effectively robbing Americans who regularly pay into them and expect returns.
In the run-up to the November midterm elections, Republican leaders last year kept their distance from the specific aspects of Ryan's plan. But the growing GOP consensus to cut back on the programs suggests that they could be in significant danger if Republicans take back the Senate or the White House in 2012.
"It is clear from the Republican Party's selection of Paul Ryan to be the spokesman in the wake of the State of the Union address ... that they are getting behind his plan, and that makes clear that they are coming after Social Security and Medicare," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Monday on a conference call with reporters.
"Paul Ryan has become the leader of the Republicans," added Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the call. "He has developed their blueprint for the future."
Sanders recently told Raw Story that progressives are right to fear that President Barack Obama may also consider reductions to Social Security. Liberal activists recently embarked on an ad campaign to try and preserve what many describe as the holy grail of American liberalism.
While the program's payouts did exceed revenues for the first time last year, the Social Security Trust Fund had a surplus of $2.6 trillion and was expected to remain solvent in its current form until 2037, according to its 2010 trustees report.
This video is from ABC's Top Line, broadcast Monday, Jan. 24.