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Biden targets top Florida Republicans DeSantis, Scott over health care in Tampa stop

President Biden took aim at two of Florida’s most prominent Republicans — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott — when he visited the state Thursday to pitch his economic agenda while vowing to protect the programs crucial to seniors and the poor — Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Biden knocked DeSantis for refusing to expand subsidized health care with the help of the federal government and continued to attack Scott for a plan that would require Congress to reauthorize Social Security and Medicare every five years.

“I will not cut a single Social Security or Medicare benefit. In fact, I’m going to extend the Medicare trust fund for at least two decades,” Biden told the crowd.

Biden noted that Florida is one of only 11 states to not expand Medicaid. “Over 1.1 million people in Florida would be eligible for Medicaid if Governor DeSantis just said, ‘I agree to expand it,’” Biden said.

Biden’s targeting of both DeSantis and Scott is no coincidence. The two are already beginning to draw national attention ahead of the upcoming election year in which DeSantis — fresh off a 19-point reelection victory in Florida last year — is widely expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Scott — fresh off losing a bid to become the Senate GOP leader — is running for reelection in 2024.

Another Republican with knowledge of the conversations said DeSantis advisers met recently to discuss the 2024 election. The Republicans spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Biden has focused heavily on his differences with Republicans on the two popular entitlement programs in recent days, including in his State of the Union address Tuesday. When he visited Tampa on Thursday, Biden noted Florida has the largest percentage of seniors of any state in the nation and vowed he would veto any effort by Republicans to cut programs that benefit them.

“The very idea the senator from Florida wants to put Social Security, Medicare on the chopping block every five years, I find to be somewhat outrageous,” Biden said.

Scott is airing ads in Florida demanding that the president resign. Onstage in Tampa, Biden chided Scott for doubling down on his proposal.

“Just yesterday, he confirmed that he still … likes the proposal,” Biden said. “Well, I guarantee you it will not happen. I will veto it.”

The president said he knows that a lot of Republicans’ “dream is to cut Social Security, Medicare.”

“Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare,” the president said to loud cheers.

At the venue, pamphlets that look like Scott’s plan were placed on all the seats. The plan, released last year, would require all legislation, including that creating Medicare and Social Security, to be passed by Congress every five years to remain on the books.

The pamphlets highlight the provision in Scott’s plan that says: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

Additional text has also been added, reading: “This means Medicare and Social Security would be on the chopping block every five years under Senator Rick Scott and Congressional Republicans’ plan.”

Few in Scott’s party have actually embraced that part of his plan. Scott insists he does not want to cut Social Security or Medicare.

As part of his pushback against Biden’s attacks, Scott pointed to legislation written in 1975 by Biden when he was a senator from Delaware. Biden’s legislation from nearly a half-century ago would have required all federal programs to sunset after four years.

Pressed on CNN on Thursday morning about how his plan differs from Biden’s bill, Scott offered this: “Mine says clearer, you know, if it’s worth keeping, we’re going to keep it. In his case, okay, I mean he proposed a bill just to sunset everything. I’ve never done that. I’ve been very clear. I am not for cutting Social Security or Medicare. … I don’t believe in that.”

Biden said at the time that the aim of his 1975 legislation was to require “every program to be looked at freshly at least once every four years.”

Earlier in the interview, CNN’s Kaitlin Collins asked Scott whether it was a mistake to have included the five-year sunset in his plan, given how Democrats have used it to attack him and fellow Republicans.

“No,” Scott said. “Nobody believes that I want to cut Medicare or Social Security. I’ve never said it.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday dismissed attempts by Republicans to highlight a bill that Biden wrote as a senator from Delaware in 1975.

Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One that a bill introduced nearly 50 years ago is not indicative of Biden’s current views.

“The president ran on protecting Medicare and Social Security from cuts, and he reiterated that in the State of the Union,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to Biden’s address to Congress on Tuesday.

“A bill from the 1970s is not part of the president’s agenda,” she added. “You have to listen to what the president said the last couple of years about protecting and fighting for Medicare and Social Security.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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