Saturday, June 23, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Rubio says Republicans didn't want Social Security changes in cliff deal

The fiscal cliff negotiations are over for now, but while they were happening, there were lots of accusations and finger-pointing before Congress and President Barack Obama reached agreement.

Amid the home stretch, Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio — who voted no on the overall deal — took to Twitter. On the afternoon of Dec. 30, he tweeted: "Report that #GOP insisting on changes to Social Security as part of #fiscalcliff false. BTW those changes are supported by @barackobama."

The next day, liberal columnist Paul Krugman said Rubio lied about the negotiations, and that "numerous reports tell us that McConnell did in fact make precisely that demand," referring to the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

We decided to sort out the controversy by investigating Rubio's claim that the GOP did not insist on changes to Social Security as part of the fiscal cliff and whether Obama actually supported those changes.

'Chained CPI'

The final days of fiscal cliff negotiations hit a roadblock amid a controversy about something called "chained CPI," which would reduce future spending on Social Security for seniors.

Most years, seniors get cost-of-living adjustments that slightly increase their monthly Social Security payments. If chained CPI were adopted, the increases would be smaller.

What is chained CPI? The CPI stands for "consumer price index." Chained CPI accounts for how people change their behavior when costs go up: So if the price of pasta goes up, you might buy cheaper rice instead.

Supporters of chained CPI say it's a way to reduce Social Security spending without making major changes to the program. Opponents say it's essentially a reduction in Social Security payments that hits many seniors who are barely getting by.

Switching to chained CPI has drawn support from an array of economists and experts. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform included the idea in its recommendations. The conservative Heritage Foundation has endorsed chained CPI, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, has shown support for it under certain conditions, if it includes a modest benefit increase.

Switching to chained CPI isn't a new concept. The Washington Post reported that Obama "tentatively embraced" chained CPI during 2011 negotiations with House Republicans on the debt ceiling.

But back then, many Democrats and the AARP pushed back. When Obama released his deficit-reduction plan in September 2011, it did not include the change.

But postelection, as Obama wanted to avoid going over the fiscal cliff, he again seemed open to switching inflation measures. In mid-December, Obama reportedly agreed to chained CPI, again angering some in his own party.

Obama spoke about his chained CPI proposal on Meet the Press on Dec. 30, noting that it was not popular with Democrats or the AARP. "But in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term I'm willing to make those decisions," he said.

During the final weekend of backroom negotiations on the fiscal cliff, multiple news reports said McConnell included the chained CPI in an offer. The Los Angeles Times wrote that McConnell included it in his proposal on the evening of Dec. 29.

At some point the next afternoon, though, Republicans dropped their demands for the Social Security change.

The timing of those news reports was around the same time as Rubio's afternoon tweet. Republicans appeared to be in damage-control mode about the suggestion that they would be reducing grannies' Social Security checks in favor of lower taxes for the wealthy.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said changes to Social Security would be a political loser for Republicans since the deal at hand was mostly about taxes.

"It's a very bad, losing proposition," McCain said. "What (Democrats) are saying now is, 'Republicans want to preserve tax breaks for rich people and give up seniors' Social Security.' That's the argument they're using. Now whether it's valid or not, it's a winning argument. It should be off the table. And I think most Republicans believe it should be off the table."

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told PolitiFact that Rubio's tweet was "100 percent true. It was something that Republican leaders had sought but never insisted on, and it was obviously not part of the final agreement (which Marco voted against because it failed to grow the economy or address spending)."

Still, Rubio's tweet did not make it clear that GOP leadership did pursue the Social Security change, at least for a time.

And while Obama has shown a willingness to use chained CPI as one ingredient in deficit reduction, he acknowledges that it isn't popular with seniors or his own party. Obama has said it's a concession he was willing to offer as part of a deal where both sides would compromise to reduce the deficit.

We rate Rubio's claim Half True.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News. See video fact-checks at WTSP.com/PolitiFact.

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18