President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a proposal to raise taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 annually in order to continue funding Medicare, marking a new front in the White House’s efforts to position itself as a critical safeguard against efforts to cut the program.
“The budget I am releasing this week will make the Medicare trust fund solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits,” Biden wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “In fact, we can get better value, making sure Americans receive better care for the money they pay into Medicare.”
The president will also seek to expand a measure passed last year that allows Medicare to negotiate the prices of specific prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives is all but certain to shut down any proposals for new taxes on the rich to help pay for entitlement programs they’ve otherwise threatened for years. In fact, several Republican lawmakers, as my colleague Abigail Weinberg has noted, have openly expressed their desire to cut Medicare benefits, a fact Biden called out in his most recent State of the Union address, prompting swift denials from the GOP.
Sensing that Americans don’t like the notion of being denied the retirement benefits they’ve paid into their entire lives, Republicans are trying to argue that they never threatened the programs in the first place. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who looked enraged when Biden mentioned Republicans’ plans to cut Medicare and Social Security at the State of the Union, issued a statement on Twitter: “I am aware of NO REPUBLICAN—in either House of Congress—who has suggested any modification of Social Security as a condition for raising the debt ceiling.” The White House sent Politico a convenient list of news articles in which Republicans do just that. (Never mind that Lee himself once said, “It will be my objective to phase out Social Security—to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it.”)
The plan is a direct challenge to the GOP ahead of what’s likely to be an intense battle over Biden’s budget proposals.