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Pence: Common Sense SS, Medicare Reform03/22 06:08


   (AP) -- As he mulls a 2024 presidential bid, former Vice President Mike 
Pence on Tuesday called for "common sense and compassionate solutions" to 
reform entitlement programs and the nation's debt burden, suggesting changes to 
Social Security and Medicare programs hurtling toward insolvency, particularly 
for younger generations, without naming specific recommendations.

   "What we need now is leadership because, if we act in this moment with the 
support of this generation, we can introduce common sense reforms that will 
never touch anyone who is in retirement, or anyone who will retire in the next 
25 years," Pence told an audience of college students at Washington & Lee 
University in Lexington, Virginia. "It'll just take courage to do it, and 
that's where your generation will come in."

   What to do with Social Security and Medicare, as the programs close in on 
projected insolvency dates, has emerged as a dividing line for Republicans 
seeking to lead their party in the 2024 presidential contest.

   Forecasters say Social Security won't be able to pay out its promised 
benefits in about a dozen years, and Medicare won't be able to do so in just 
five years. Economists say both programs will drive the national debt higher in 
the decades to come, forcing teeth-gritting choices for the next generation of 

   Pence -- yet to announce a 2024 presidential bid but saying Tuesday he was 
"continuing to pray and reflect" on one -- has previously suggested tweaks for 
the programs, telling CNBC in February that cuts to Medicare and Social 
Security should be "on the table for the long term."

   "President Biden won't even discuss common sense reforms of Social Security 
and Medicare, and too many leaders in my political party take the same 
position," Pence said during remarks at Washington & Lee's quadrennial mock 
presidential nominating convention known as Mock Con. It predicts the 
presidential nominee of the party out of power in the White House.

   "If that frustrates you, good -- it should, because it'll be your generation 
that's robbed of your dreams and opportunities," he said.

   Pence's ideas are broadly in line with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki 
Haley, already in the 2024 GOP race, who last week opened the door to potential 
cuts for younger generations. During a campaign rally in Myrtle Beach, South 
Carolina, Haley said that, while she wouldn't touch the benefits of older 
people who retired with certain guarantees of a financial future, "the rules 
have changed" for "anyone new coming in this system."

   Other Republicans likely vying for the party's nomination disagree. At the 
Conservative Political Action Conference this month, former President Donald 
Trump -- officially mounting a third run -- took a veiled jab at Florida Gov. 
Ron DeSantis, calling out those who have proposed raising the age for Social 
Security or privatizing Medicare -- positions DeSantis has expressed support 
for in the past but has since abandoned.

   "We're not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans," DeSantis, yet 
to announce a 2024 run, recently said.

   Many leading Republicans have recently sought to signal their unwillingness 
to touch entitlement programs, though the GOP has a long history of threatening 
to slash the benefits. Democrats have pointed to a plan by Republican Sen. Rick 
Scott of Florida, introduced last year but later amended, that called for all 
federal spending legislation to sunset in five years, subject to votes in 
Congress that could preserve programs.

   Met with boos from congressional Republicans when he said during his State 
of the Union address that "some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security 
to sunset," President Joe Biden last week took aim at "MAGA" Republicans he 
said are intent on dialing back Medicare coverage for millions of Americans, 
promising to "defend and strengthen" the programs.

   After Biden's speech, Scott amended the plan to exempt Social Security, 
Medicare, national security, veterans benefits and other essential services.

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