WASHINGTON -- Deficit super committee member and Republican Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Tuesday he will oppose any Social Security benefit reductions for current seniors.
"It’s critical ... that the people that are benefiting today from Medicare and Social Security that they not see benefit reductions," he said at a forum in Kalamazoo, Mich. "It's awfully hard to tell someone … who might be 82, that they’ve gotta go back to work, because their benefits are gonna be chopped. That's not gonna happen. We’re not gonna allow that to happen.”
Upton's statement signals he may oppose a proposal by President Barack Obama to make a "chained consumer price index" change to Social Security, cutting benefits for current beneficiaries of the program. In July, Obama proposed making such a change, which would cut average benefits by about $600 per year by 2021 and $1000 per year by 2031, during negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over the debt limit increase.
"Chained CPI," as opposed to the current consumer price index, would allow the government to more closely align benefits with how people spend their money as product prices fluctuate.
Obama is expected to again present chained CPI as an option for lowering the cost of Social Security in September, when he is scheduled to make a major speech on shrinking the deficit.
Upton also said he would oppose an increase to Medicare's eligibility age beyond 67, two years above the current threshold. That may give the Republican more room for compromise with the Obama administration; Obama offered to increase the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 as part of a grand bargain effort during debt limit talks.
Social Security Works, a group that defends against cuts to the program, applauded Upton's remarks in a statement, tying them to a lack of support for chained CPI. Upton's office did not return a request for additional comment.
"If enacted, [chained CPI] would erode the purchasing power of current and future beneficiaries as they age," explained Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works. "That’s not a 'grand-bargain.' That's 'grand larceny!'"
"Hopefully Rep. Upton’s support can help get Social Security off the table," Kingson added.
WATCH Upton's remarks, via Think Progress: