HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon tried to assure Connecticut seniors on Thursday that she won’t support any reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits to current retirees and those soon to retire despite the campaign ads they might see on TV.
‘‘I will not support any budget or any plan that will reduce benefits,’’ she said during an hourlong AARP telephone forum, stressing that she’s been consistent for the past three years since she first ran for the U.S. Senate and doesn’t want her words or thoughts ‘‘twisted.’’
McMahon has been repeatedly accused by her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, of supporting proposals to privatize Medicare and to ‘‘sunset’’ Social Security, essentially allowing the program to expire. Using footage of the former wrestling executive saying she supported ‘‘sunset provisions’’ for such kinds of legislation at a tea party activist forum, Murphy has tried to portray McMahon as being aligned with conservative Republican positions.
Seniors are considered one of the key voting blocks in this tight race. According to AARP Connecticut, there are about 620,000 Social Security and over 571,000 Medicare recipients in the state. AARP has about 600,000 members in Connecticut, and they make up 40 percent of the state’s registered voters, the advocacy group said.
As in last week’s final debate with Murphy, McMahon wouldn’t commit to specific ideas for financially shoring up Social Security or Medicare for future retirees, saying ‘‘they really get demonized.’’ She also didn’t commit to a specific cut-off age for those soon-to-be-retirees whose benefits should not be affected, but she assured a 51-year-old woman from New Hartford that her Social Security benefits would be safe.
‘‘I'm not looking to take away your Social Security, so please don’t worry about that,’’ McMahon told her.
When asked specifically about whether wealthier people should pay more Social Security tax on more of their income and whether the retirement age should be changed, McMahon said everything should be considered by members of Congress on a bipartisan basis and scored by the Congressional Budget Office. However, she assured one man that she opposes a GOP-proposed voucher system for Medicare.
McMahon also took the opportunity to tout her six-point jobs plan, saying that more job growth is ultimately needed to help finance both programs.
Murphy, who is scheduled to participate in the same AARP telephone forum Friday, has criticized McMahon for her lack of specifics on changes she supports for Medicare and Social Security.
Murphy has called for increasing the cap on how much money goes into Social Security by having the wealthiest Americans pay more in Social Security taxes. On Medicare, the 5th Congressional District congressman has said the federal government should continue streamlining the system and reward medical outcomes rather than the number of procedures. If that doesn’t deliver enough savings, he has said there should be means testing for Medicare for the very wealthy.
On Thursday, during a visit to the Meriden Senior Center, Murphy continued to accuse McMahon of wanting to end Social Security through a sunset provision and turn Medicare into a voucher program. He also received an endorsement from the Alliance for Retired Americans.