Mike Bloomberg‘s campaign counter-punched Joe Biden Thursday afternoon in the rhetorical fight over past comments regarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, charging that Biden has previously supported measures that could have frozen or cut those programs.
The counter attack comes after Biden’s campaign jumped all over Bloomberg earlier Thursday for saying, in a 2009 radio interview, that Social Security was like a Ponzi scheme, and in a 2013 interview that Medicare and Medicaid needed to be cut to balance the federal budget. Biden surrogates including Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, Sen. Kevin Rader and Rep. Geraldine Thompson blasted Bloomberg for his past comments, with Rep. Joe Geller saying, “there is no place in the Democratic presidential primary for a candidate who would attack Social Security.”
Yet Biden also had supported measures that could have frozen or even cut those programs, Bloomberg’s campaign shot back Thursday afternoon. More than once, the campaign contended, citing a series of reports from various media including PolitiFact, The Intercept, and The Washington Post.
Specifically, the Bloomberg campaign is calling attention to 1984 when, during a recession at that period, then-Sen. Biden sought an across the board freeze on government spending and made it clear he meant that to include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and in 1995 when he advocated for a balanced budget amendment that offered no protections for Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid from cuts.
“When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veteran’s benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time,” Biden was quoted as saying in 1995.
Biden’s campaign defended the 1984 and 1995 comments and efforts as being relevant to the immediate times, when the country was struggling to deal with steep budget deficits. The campaign noted that on numerous other occasions throughout his 36-year career, far and away the pattern and theme of his position, he has sponsored, co-sponsored, and voted for measures to increase or at least protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Biden has vowed that as President he would not cut Social Security benefits.
His campaign also argued there is no equality of offense to Democratic standards between the positions Biden took in 1984 and 1995 and someone calling Social Security “a Ponzi scheme” in 2009.
Andrew Bates, spokesperson for the Biden campaign, called Bloomberg’s radio comment a “right-wing talking point that’s often used to push for [Social Security’s] abolition.”
With Florida’s March 17 presidential primary coming up, Biden and Bloomberg have been battling for the lead in polls in the Sunshine State. In the most recent St. Pete Polls survey, Biden came out nine points ahead of Bloomberg with the rest of the Democratic field well back. The previous couple of polls had the former Vice President and the former New York City Mayor nearly dead even, with Bloomberg slightly on top.
A lot of the Social Security matters came up in January, when Biden’s and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ campaigns had a similar tussle, back when Bloomberg still wasn’t showing up much in polling in the crowded Democratic field. Now polls suggest Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg all are serious players as the campaigns head toward Saturday’s South Carolina primary, the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries and potentially on to Florida’s primary.
Bloomberg’s campaign also pointed out Bloomberg’s current positions for “preserving and strengthening Social Security’s long-term finances, while maintaining and enhancing benefits for the neediest recipients,” expanding Medicare and Medicaid coverages.