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U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil is part of the Republican Study Committee, which includes almost 80% of House Republicans.
Steil’s office says he opposes the group’s budget proposal on Social Security and Medicare and would vote against it.
Additionally, the plan says it would not cut benefits for any senior in or near retirement, like the one depicted in the ad.
Two familiar election-year policy topics have returned to the race for the 1st Congressional District — Medicare and Social Security.
Voters in the southern Wisconsin district, where U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil is running for a fourth term, may have started seeing a television ad aimed at his stances on the programs.
The spot was launched Jan. 10 by Opportunity Wisconsin, a liberal group that describes itself as "a coalition of Wisconsin residents fighting for an economy that works for working people."
The ad features a Navy veteran from Racine, identified only as Jim, who expresses concerns about Steil’s positions on the benefits.
"Bryan Steil is part of a group that wants to cut Social Security and Medicare, that would be devastating," Jim says. "I earned my Social Security and Medicare benefits. Not given, not entitled, earned. Bryan Steil has no business touching them."
The position of Steil and other Republicans on Social Security and Medicare is likely to remain a frequent topic in campaign advertising ahead of the 2024 elections.
And, it could be a continued point of focus among Steil’s Democratic challengers.
Federal lawmakers have struggled to agree on how to reform the programs, which could run out of money to pay out benefits in the early 2030s.
Although the ad features "Jim," we’re checking Opportunity Wisconsin, the group making the claim. Let’s take a look at where Steil stands on cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
By way of backup, Opportunity Wisconsin’s news release announcing the ads notes that Steil is part of the Republican Study Committee, "which has proposed a federal budget which would cut $718 billion from Social Security, raise the retirement age, and more."
Nearly 80% of House Republicans are part of that conservative caucus. Along with Steil, its members include U.S. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Glenn Grothman and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.
That fact-check noted the plan was not universally endorsed by Republicans, didn’t provide a lot of detail and was far from certain to be enacted.
Also, Steil was not one of the 14 members whose signature is on the plan, though Tiffany’s is.
Chavonne Ludick, Steil’s communications director, said the representative opposes the budget proposal that is mentioned in the ad, which she called "recklessly misleading."
"While the congressman is a member of the Republican Study Committee, the 177 members of the group have widely differing views on many issues," Ludick said. "Congressman Steil strongly supports Social Security and Medicare and opposes plans to cut them."
She said even if it came up for a vote, Steil "would vote against it and recommend others do the same."
We’ve established that Steil is part of the Republican Study Committee, as Opportunity Wisconsin states. But his office says he doesn’t support the plan and wouldn’t vote for it.
So, there is a connection to Steil, but not a strong one.
There are other problems with the ad, especially in how it characterizes the plan itself. Remember that Jim stressed he earned his benefits and Stiel "has no business touching them."
But the plan itself states: "We will not now or ever support cutting or delaying retirement benefits for any senior in or near retirement."
Rather, as the earlier fact-check noted, the plan would make changes to the benefit formula for people who aren’t near retirement and are on the higher end of the income scale. And it would make "modest adjustments" to the retirement age to receive full benefits "to account for increases in life expectancy." That would cut benefits for some people, the fact-check explained.
Roll Call reported that the committee was looking at raising the age to 69, for those who turn 62 in 2033.
Now, what about the Medicare piece of the plan?
The proposal calls for a "premium support model" that would subsidize private plans that would compete with Medicare. The caucus claimed their plans would lower premiums for seniors and would not cut benefits.
In a 2014 USA Today fact-check, we noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the idea — floated by then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — could lead to higher costs for beneficiaries.
Sam Roecker, communications director for Opportunity Wisconsin, provided additional sources regarding Steil’s stances on Medicare, including votes against capping insulin costs at $35 for program recipients.
But that’s not the same as cutting benefits, as the ad suggests.
An Opportunity Wisconsin ad depicts a retiree who is concerned that Rep. Bryan Steil could cut his Social Security and Medicare benefits.
He says, partly. "Bryan Steil is part of a group that wants to cut Social Security and Medicare, that would be devastating."
Steil is part of the Republican Study Committee, which authored a plan aimed at addressing future Social Security and Medicare shortfalls, but so are many other House Republicans.
Importantly, Steil’s office says he opposes the plan and would vote against it.
Even if he did back the changes, the plan said it wouldn’t cut benefits for people in or near retirement, like the voter shown in the ad.
Our definition of Mostly False is "the statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."
That fits here.
Opportunity Wisconsin, About Us, Jan. 17, 2024
Opportunity Wisconsin, "Jim" ad, Jan. 9, 2024
Opportunity Wisconsin, WATCH: New ads highlight Reps. Steil and Van Orden working against families and seniors, while pushing for handouts to big corporations, Jan. 10, 2024
Republican Study Committee, Membership, Jan. 17, 2024
PolitiFact, Is Joe Biden right that Republicans "would cut Social Security benefits"?, Nov. 29, 2023
Republican Study Committee, Fiscal Year 2024 Budget, June 14, 2023
Email exchange, Chavonne Ludick, Communications Director for Rep. Bryan Steil, Jan. 17, 2024
Roll Call, Conservatives’ budget plan renews battle over seniors’ benefits, June 14, 2023
FactCheck.org, Fact check: Old Medicare claims in Ark. Senate race, Feb. 25, 2014
Email exchange, Sam Roecker, Opportunity Wisconsin communications director, Jan. 12 and Jan. 16, 2024
Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Roll Call 102 Bill Number: H. R. 6833, March 31, 2022
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