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  1. Florida Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Pro-Democrat PAC overshoots attack on Marco Rubio's positions on Social Security, Medicare

Two Democratic groups say Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wants to cut Social Security and Medicare — programs that millions of Florida seniors rely on each year.

"Marco Rubio wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare because he said they're bankrupting our country. But that's what politicians say when the insurance industry bankrolls their campaigns," says the narrator in a TV ad by the Senate Majority PAC and AFSCME People.

The PAC aims to elect Democrats to the Senate, including U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. AFSCME is a union representing public workers.

We found that Rubio's views on those programs are much more nuanced than the ad suggests. We rate the statement Half True.

Both Social Security and Medicare face long-term financing shortfalls, leading program trustees and experts on the federal budget to call on lawmakers to take action. Many are unwilling to act out of fear of repercussions at the ballot box. Together, the programs accounted for 41 percent of federal program expenditures in fiscal year 2015.

During his first U.S. Senate campaign in 2010, Rubio called for reforming entitlement programs. Specifically, Rubio said in 2010 that he was open to raising the retirement age of Social Security: "Privatization of the accounts has come and gone, (but) there are other alternatives, such as (raising) the retirement age, how you adjust payments in the future, 'need' measures, et cetera."

The retirement age came up again during a Fox News Sunday debate against Charlie Crist. Host Chris Wallace asked Rubio whether he would raise the retirement age for Social Security.

"I think that has to be on the table. That's got to be part of the solution. The retirement age that gradually increases for people of my generation, I think has got to be part of … ," Rubio said before getting cut off.

Rubio was asked whether he would support changing cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security beneficiaries.

"I think all of that has to be on the table, including the way we index increases in cost of living. All of these issues have to be on the table," Rubio said. "They have to be options that I would be open to."

Rubio consistently said that while he wouldn't make changes for those 55 and older, younger people such as himself (he was 39 at the time) would have to accept changes.

Post-2010 election

The Senate Majority PAC's ad cites Rubio's comments from 2011. In March 2011, Rubio voted for a House-passed measure to cut about $61 billion from the budget through the end of the year.

"While reducing discretionary spending is an important goal, Washington is devoting a disproportionate amount of time to a tiny slice of the budget while ignoring the fact that continued inaction on saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is bankrupting our country," Rubio said in a news release.

In 2014, Rubio gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he again said inaction would lead to bankruptcy. Rubio called to "gradually increase the retirement age for future retirees to account for the rise in life expectancy."

As for Medicare, he called for a "premium support system" that would give seniors a fixed amount of money to purchase insurance from Medicare or a private provider. That was similar to a plan by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Rubio voted for the Ryan budgets that included reductions in future Medicare spending. The burden would have fallen on beneficiaries to pay more out of pocket.

While running for president in 2016, Rubio again called for reducing the debt by making changes to Social Security and Medicare.

At a March debate in Miami, Rubio reiterated his stance about raising the retirement age, but not for those who are 55 or older.

"Social Security will go bankrupt, and it will bankrupt the country with it," he said. "So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents."

Rubio's 2016 race

Rubio reiterated the same proposals for Social Security in his 2016 race.

"Marco's own mother relies on Social Security as her sole source of income," Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens said. "Marco would never do anything to hurt his mother or the millions of Florida seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare, and he'll continue to fight to strengthen the programs for future generations."

His campaign staffers also point to previous PolitiFact analysis that said that reining in the spending growth of a program like Medicare wasn't the same as cutting it.

Edited for print. Read more fact-checks at PolitiFact.com/florida.

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