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Democratic ad exaggerates scope of Rick Scott’s proposal on Social Security, Medicare

PolitiFact | The plan is not a “Senate Republicans’ plan.” It was proposed by one Republican senator, Rick Scott.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Apr. 7

An 11-point agenda proposed by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., continues to produce fodder for attack ads from Democrats.

Scott’s plan, which he pitched as a platform for the GOP should the party take back Congress in November, indicated support for raising income taxes on millions of Americans by saying that all Americans should pay some income tax, and half don’t. Democrats like Rep. Val Demings teed up the plan to falsely tag Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as supporting Scott’s pitch. Demings is running for Rubio’s Senate seat.

Related: Rick Scott touts, defends his 'Rescue America' plan at CPAC

Now the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — the direct rival to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that Scott chairs — is going after another plank of Scott’s plan.

Its 30-second TV ad uses clips from a Fox News interview of Scott. The anchor questions Scott about how the plan would raise taxes and “potentially sunset” programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Then these words appear on the ad’s screen:

“SENATE REPUBLICANS’ PLAN — END SOCIAL SECURITY”

“SENATE REPUBLICANS’ PLAN — END MEDICARE”

Claims that Social Security and Medicare are imperiled are common during election campaigns. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee attack goes too far in framing Scott’s idea as a broadly supported death sentence for Medicare and Social Security.

The first thing to know is that Scott’s plan, released Feb. 22, was proposed by him — not a group of Senate Republicans. Leading Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky quickly panned parts of it.

The next is that it didn’t directly call for ending those programs as the ad bottom-lined. It calls for all federal legislation to sunset within five years. That leaves open the possibility of those programs ending were Congress not to approve them again.

In rejecting Scott’s proposal, McConnell said, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”

The meaning of ‘sunset’

Scott’s plan mentions Social Security and Medicare once, in a section labeled Government Reform/Debt: “Force Congress to issue a report every year telling the public what they plan to do when Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt.”

Related: Scott wants to ‘rescue America’ through Pledge of Allegiance, strict gender roles

The plan also says: “All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says “the sunset concept provides for programs and agencies to terminate automatically on a periodic basis unless explicitly renewed by law.”

Under Scott’s plan, all federal laws, including those creating Social Security and Medicare, would expire after five years. Congress would have to renew the laws it wants to keep.

As the New York Times reported: “Taken literally, that would leave the fate of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to the whims of a Congress that rarely passes anything so expansive.”

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As PolitiFact Wisconsin reported, Scott’s statement was generic and did not directly call for the phasing out of either program.

The ad cites a news story that points out that Social Security and Medicare would be ended only if the laws creating them were not renewed.

Scott in the past has raised concerns about the impact of the two programs on the federal debt.

Our ruling

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claimed that the “Senate Republicans’ plan” would “end Social Security” and “end Medicare.”

The ad refers not to a plan from Senate Republicans but from one Republican, Scott. The plan would sunset all federal laws after five years, requiring Congress to renew the laws it wants to keep. Federal sunsetting provides for programs to terminate automatically on a periodic basis unless they are explicitly renewed by law.

While there is an element of truth in that these social welfare programs could be phased out in Scott’s model, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claim overreaches by painting that uncertain outcome as a broad party position, giving voters a misleading impression.

We rate the claim Mostly False.

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