Did 233 Representatives Vote to Steal Social Security’s $2.9 Trillion Surplus?-Truth! & Outdated!
Summary of eRumor:
A balanced budget amendment supported by 233 members of Congress would steal Social Security’s $2.9 trillion surplus, and doom Medicare to failure.
The U.S. House of Representatives considered a balanced budget amendment in April 2018 that would have posed “serious risks” to Social Security and Medicare. Although 233 lawmakers voted for the measure, however, it failed. As a constitutional amendment, it required a two-thirds majority vote to pass — not a simple majority.
The balanced budget amendment, H.J. Res. 2, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in January 2017. After the GOP majority approved tax reforms in December 2017 that would add $2 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years stoked anger among the party’s conservative base, there was a congressional push for a vote on the balanced budget amendment. It failed on a vote of 233-184 on April 12, 2018.
Would the Balanced Budget Amendment Steal Social Security’s Surplus?
Reports that “233 members of Congress just voted to steal Social Security’s $2.9 trillion surplus” circulated after the April 12 vote. Social Security Works, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting Social Security, led the charge with an infographic that went viral on social media. It’s somewhat misleading because it doesn’t make clear that the balanced budget amendment failed despite gaining 233 votes. A simple majority requires only 218 votes).
So, if the balanced budget amendment would have passed, would it have stolen Social Security’s surplus that’s set aside for retiring baby boomers? The short answer is yes. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sums up the situation like this:
Currently, Social Security holds $2.9 trillion in Treasury securities. But under the balanced budget amendment, it would essentially be unconstitutional for Social Security to draw down these savings to pay promised benefits. Instead, benefits could have to be cut, because all federal expenditures would have to be covered by tax revenues collected during that same year. More precisely, Social Security would be allowed to use its accumulated Treasury securities to help pay benefits only if the rest of the federal budget ran an offsetting surplus (or if the House and Senate each mustered three-fifths or two-thirds votes to permit deficits).
The same would be true for Medicare Part A. Currently, the program carries a $200 billion surplus. Under a balanced budget amendment, however, it would be deemed “unconstitutional” for Medicare to use the surplus because all federal expenditure would have to come from taxes collected in the same year, the Center on Budget Policy Priorities explains.
So, although 233 members of Congress supported a balanced budget amendment that would have “stolen” Social Security’s surplus, the measure failed. That’s why we’re calling this one “truth” and “outdated.”