Yesterday, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, had a warning for President Barack Obama: Don’t expect progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives to go along with any deficit reduction plan that cuts Social Security benefits. In a speech on the floor of the House, he advised Obama indirectly, saying, “Don’t let anybody tell you, Madam Speaker, that Social Security is the problem. It’s not. Social Security is the promise one generation makes to another so that every senior in America will live in dignity. That’s what it’s for. That’s what it’s about. We are not being unreasonable when we demand protection of Social Security. It’s not driving the deficit, and it does honor our seniors. And that is what it’s all about. That’s what we are going to do, and we are not going to give on that.”
At close to the same time, in an appearance on the Democracy Now TV show, Representative Raul Grijalva reiterated the commitment of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to resist any deal that cuts Social Security or Medicare. He said, “I think we reached the tipping point. I think the scrutiny of the American people, the opposition of the American people to these cuts in benefits in Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid is very, very strong. And I believe that the Progressive Caucus has an opportunity to stick together. I, for one, certainly the leadership of the caucus, is going to stick to what we’ve said, that if it’s on the table, there is cuts in benefits, reductions in benefits for recipients on any of those programs, then we are not going to support any deal.”
Congressmen Ellison and Grijalva are not alone in their resistance to using Social Security as a chip to bargain away in the current round of haggling over the deficit. Over the last couple of days, 194,461 progressive Americans who supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election have signed a pledge to withhold their volunteer time and financial contributions from his 2012 campaign if he agrees to help the Republicans cut Social Security or Medicare.