Besides fighting COVID-19, Mitt Romney wants aid package to reform Social Security and Medicare

(Susan Walsh | AP file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 9, 2020.

As Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled their proposals for a next round of COVID-19 relief, they included one from Utah Sen. Mitt Romney he says is aimed at saving soon-to-be-depleted trust funds for Social Security and Medicare.

Romney calls his plan the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act, which calls for creation of congressional committees specifically assigned to develop legislation to restore and strengthen endangered federal trust funds.

“Among its many devastating effects, COVID-19 has threatened the fiscal health of essential programs like Medicare and Social Security,” Romney said.

“If Congress does not respond quickly, the day of insolvency for these programs will now come years sooner than expected. The TRUST Act is a bipartisan solution to shore up these programs and get us off the path of fiscal danger.”

Without legislative action, Romney said some estimates show that Medicare Part A could be insolvent within two years, and Social Security could be in 11 years.

Romney’s proposal would require the Treasury Department to deliver a report on the solvency of endangered trust funds by January. Congress would then appoint members to “rescue committees,” one per trust fund, with a mandate to find ways to restore solvency. Bills advanced from committees would receive expedited debate.

He said the TRUST Act is also needed to control debt over the long term by putting trust funds on a firm footing after the pandemic.

“We’re going to have $27 trillion in debt by the end of the year, maybe more. It’s an unimaginable number,” Romney said. “We’re going to have to somehow deal with this so that this does not become an overhanging fiscal calamity for our nation, and a burden that our children and their children will be paying.”

One group, called Social Security Works, attacked Romney’s proposal as a GOP attempt to cut Social Security.

“The TRUST Act creates a closed-door process to fast track cuts to Social Security. It is a way to undermine the economic security of Americans without political accountability,” said Nancy Altman, president of the group.

“In the midst of a catastrophic pandemic, they [Republicans] should be focused on protecting seniors, essential workers, and the unemployed,” she said. “Instead, they are plotting to use the cover of the pandemic to slash Social Security.”

Romney scoffed at such criticism, saying the process would be public and by design would require bipartisan support to pass.

He added, “There is no interest on the part of either Republicans or Democrats to cut Social Security or Medicare for current retirees or people nearing retirement. At the same time, we’re going to have to make sure that what we propose for younger people coming along is something that is fiscally sustainable.”

The legislation is supported by a group of bipartisan senators, including Democratic Sens. Doug Jones, of Alabama; Joe Manchin, of West Virgina; and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House and is supported by a bipartisan group there that includes Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress.