Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa is under fire after telling a town hall audience last weekend that members of Congress should negotiate changes to Social Security “behind closed doors” in order to dodge scrutiny from the media and advocacy groups.
Ernst, who is running for reelection in 2020, complained to the crowd gathered in Estherville, Iowa that “the minute you say we need to address Social Security, the media is hammering you, the opposing party is hammering you—there goes granny over a cliff.”
“The GOP wants to cut our earned Social Security benefits—and they want to do it behind closed doors so that they don’t have to pay the political price.”
—Nancy Altman, Social Security Works
Lawmakers should therefore meet in secret to avoid “being scrutinized by this group or the other,” said the Iowa Republican.
Ernst did not recommend specific changes to Social Security during her town hall appearance, but the senator has in the past suggested privatization of the widely popular program as “one solution.”
A video of Ernst’s remarks was posted on Youtube Tuesday by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, and the comments quickly generated outrage on social media.
Nancy Altman, president of progressive advocacy group Social Security Works, wrote Friday that Ernst “said out loud what Republican politicians usually only talk about in secret meetings with their billionaire donors: the GOP wants to cut our earned Social Security benefits—and they want to do it behind closed doors so that they don’t have to pay the political price.”
Altman said any changes Congress makes to Social Security should expand the program’s benefits, and the improvements should be made in public.
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