DeSantis takes different tack on Social Security, Medicare than when he was in Congress

PolitiFact | DeSantis recently said he would not “mess with” entitlement programs.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event on his book tour on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Las Vegas.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event on his book tour on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Las Vegas. [ ELLEN SCHMIDT | Las Vegas Review-Journal ]
Published March 17

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ book promotion tour is taking him across the country, and his congressional voting record appears to be along for the ride.

Since his book, “The Courage to Be Free,” was released Feb. 28, DeSantis has stopped in Texas, Iowa and California. DeSantis Watch, a project of the left-leaning advocacy groups Progress Florida and Florida Watch, ran advertisements in some of those places on social media to counter DeSantis’ speeches with reminders of his votes in the U.S. House.

Related: 5 highlights from DeSantis’ book, ‘The Courage to Be Free’

“Ron DeSantis wants to raise the retirement age to 70,” said one digital advertisement meant to coincide with his March 4 fundraiser in Dallas.

The group is referring to DeSantis’ vote on a nonbinding budget resolution in 2013. His past support of reining in spending on Medicare and Social Security is a consistent line of attack from his opponents, including former President Donald Trump.

The ads use the word “wants,” suggesting current support, while a press release from DeSantis Watch more accurately refers to how he “voted” to increase the retirement age.

DeSantis walked back support of reforming Social Security and Medicare

First, let’s clarify what then-Rep. DeSantis voted for in 2013.

Budget resolutions are symbolic statements of a policy preference; even if they pass, they do not become law.

In 2013, with Republicans controlling the House, DeSantis joined 103 Republicans on a failed resolution that called for raising the age to qualify for Medicare and Social Security to 70, according to a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analysis.

The measure also supported a transition of Medicare, a program funded by the federal government, to a premium support system, for which the federal government would designate a pot of money for each beneficiary to spend on a private insurance plan.

The resolution’s text stated the measure would have affected future beneficiaries; it says, “those in or near retirement will see no changes.”

DeSantis’ support of the measure wouldn’t have surprised his constituents.

In a 2012 interview with the St. Augustine Record, DeSantis said the U.S. needs to “start to restructure the program in a way that’s going to be financially sustainable, both Social Security and Medicare.”

DeSantis was also a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, which advocated fiscal conservatism.

He went mum on the issue of addressing the exponential cost of Medicare and Social Security after he became governor in 2019.

In 2023, with DeSantis’ past votes in the limelight, as he considers a presidential bid, he’s been prompted to answer where he stands.

“Look, I have more seniors here than just about anyone as a percentage,” DeSantis told Fox News’ Dana Perino on March 2. “You know, we’re not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans. I think that that’s pretty clear.”

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DeSantis cited Florida’s large older population for his changed stance. The governor’s office did not offer additional insight about DeSantis’ current position and suggested PolitiFact refer to his “direct” comments about reforming entitlements.

Related: When will social security sunset? Barring congressional changes, money will deplete by 2034

Although Republicans and Democrats have vowed to protect entitlement programs, that promise ignores reality: Without some intervention, for instance, Social Security’s trust funds will run out by about 2034.

Our ruling

DeSantis Watch claimed DeSantis “wants to raise the retirement age to 70.”

In the present tense, that’s misleading. When he was in the House, DeSantis voted for a 2013 budget resolution that proposed raising the Social Security retirement age to 70.

At the time, DeSantis said he wanted to make the programs “financially sustainable” for younger generations. More than a decade later, and ahead of a possible GOP presidential primary, DeSantis walked back that stance, telling Fox News in early March that he would not “mess with” entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The ad contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.