Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa told donors at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. last March that federal spending on non-discretionary programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is “out of control” and will require “changes” in the future.
That's according to a 55-second audio clip published Wednesday by Iowa Starting Line. In the recording, Ernst is asked by an attendee whether she is on board with Sen. David Perdue's (R-Ga.) call for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
“I think we all are because we understand that our non-discretionary spending is growing like this,” replied Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020. “Everyone focuses on discretionary spending because that is what we can control in Congress. The rest is on autopilot and is out of control. We have to figure out ways to honor the commitments that have been made, but make changes for the future. How we do that, I don't know.”
Progressive advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted that “changes” is “code for massive cuts.”
This isn’t the first time Ernst was caught on camera pushing cuts to the safety net:
Ernst’s top opponent, Theresa Greenfield (D. IA), has been slamming Ernst for supporting these cuts:
When my first husband passed away in a tragic workplace accident, I didn't know what to do. I was raising my young son and pregnant with my second and Social Security survivor benefits helped us stay out of poverty and get back on our feet.
When I hear my extreme Republican opponent, Senator Ernst, say she wants to gut Social Security “behind closed doors,” it gets me hot under the collar. But it also reminds me why I'm running.
This race is personal for me, and I'll never stop fighting to protect Social Security. But national Republicans are already spending big to beat me. Will you pitch in $5 or whatever you can to power this grassroots campaign?
I know first-hand you don't stop giving a hand up to people so you can give handouts to the super-wealthy and corporate special interests.
I'll never put politics ahead of working families. So, while national Republicans continue to further their agenda and threaten Social Security, I'll be on the frontlines fighting to protect it.
I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work fighting for the issues we all care about, but I need your help to win.