As debt ceiling showdown looms, advocates call on Pa.’s Perry, Republicans to ‘Back off our benefits’

Produced By: - April 11, 2023 12:42 pm

A nationwide bus tour aimed at pressuring Republicans to back off holding such key safety net programs as Social Security and Medicare hostage during negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling rolled into Harrisburg on Tuesday with one very prominent target.

Namely, U.S. House Freedom Caucus Chairperson Scott Perry, who represents south-central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, which Democrats are aiming to recapture in 2024.

The tour comes as conservatives in the U.S House push a convoluted plan that would prioritize the nation’s overseas debt obligations and move funding for domestic programs that impact millions of Americans to the back of the line, according to Politico.

On Tuesday, those advocates called on Perry and his fellow Republicans to sign a pledge not to attack the third-rail programs. 

“Republicans are taking every opportunity to chip away,” at the programs, Moises Montalvo, a spokesperson for Courage for America, a progressive advocacy group convened earlier this year to counter the House’s new Republican majority, said during a news conference in the shadow of the Capitol’s east front. 

“Default is looming over our heads, and the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid,” and other safety net programs “are under attack,” Montalvo said.

If Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 — at the latest, the nation could run out of the money it needs to pay for essential services and programs.

During an appearance before a local Rotary Club in Cumberland County last week, Perry laid out the Freedom Caucus’ demands for its votes to avoid a historic, and potentially catastrophic, default. 

If we’re going to [raise the debt ceiling] … then we ought to try to change the trajectory, in my opinion, so we either don’t get there as quickly or we don’t get there at all and we keep spending within the means of the revenues that we take in,” Perry said, according to PennLive.

On Tuesday, advocates accused Perry and congressional Republicans of playing politics with the livelihoods of millions of Americans as they try to extract concessions from the Democratic Biden administration. 

Perry and “members of his so-called Freedom Caucus are demanding steep cuts in federal budget spending in exchange for their votes to raise the federal debt ceiling,” the Rev. Sandra Strauss, a longtime Harrisburg advocate, said. 

“This is a representative who touts his military affiliations,” even as programs that benefit veterans are being put at risk during the current round of budgetary chicken, Strauss asserted.

Harriet Ellenberger, of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, said she saw the benefit of Medicaid first hand in the wake of a recent hospitalization. A bill that initially was $78,000 was pared down to $1,100 once her benefits kicked in, she said.

“This is something that concerns all our citizens, and we need to do something to keep Medicare safe for all of us,” she said. 

The bus tour began on March 30 in the southern California district represented by Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. It’s slated to wrap up in Washington D.C. on April 17, as McCarthy marks the 100th day of his speakership

“We’re real people – not a number on a box or a line on a spreadsheet,” Montalvo, a U.S. Army veteran, said. 

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.


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