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December 01, 2017

Bernie Sanders rips Pat Toomey in heated tax bill debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders took an entertaining shot at Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. senator in a Thursday night debate over a proposed tax overhaul on Capitol Hill.

The former presidential candidate blasted Toomey and his colleagues over rumblings this week that GOP leaders may weigh cutting spending on social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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Sanders, the longest-serving Independent in U.S. congressional history, tweeted out two videos of his exchange with Toomey during a Senate debate over the bill on Capitol Hill – one unedited clip on Thursday night and another on Friday morning that included edits, subtitles and a soundtrack.

"Will you guarantee the people of this country that after this bill passes, you will not come back and raise the retirement age, voucherize Medicare, raise the retirement age to Medicare and cut cost of living increases by instituting a so-called Chained CPI?" Sanders asked Toomey as the Senate debated the bill on Capitol Hill. "Do I have your word on that?"

Toomey, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, indicated in his response that no such changes were in the cards.

"So I have to disappoint the senator from Vermont by informing him that there is no secret plan to do any of the above," he said. "We are not in some process to spring something."

Toomey also noted that neither Medicare or Medicaid are mentioned in the bill.

Sanders then asked Toomey if he would support cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"I am not going to support any cuts to people who are on the program and need those benefits," Toomey said, after which Sanders cut in loudly over the Pennsylvania senator as Toomey continued to respond.

"Ahh, there it is!" Sanders exclaimed. "Reclaiming my time! Reclaiming – excuse me – reclaiming my time! The cat's out of the box, or whatever the phrase is. He just told you he's going to cut Social Security. That's it, my friends."

Sanders further explained his interpretation of Toomey's answer.

"He will not cut it, what he just said. He will not cut it for people who are on social security right now. I hear that," he said. "But if you are 50 years of age, or you are 55 years of age, [Republicans] just told you. My friend from Pennsylvania just told you, they may go forward to raise the retirement age. They may cut your cost of living adjustment. That what he just said. So there is a plan, and that is exactly what they intend to do."

The senator followed up Friday on social media, saying there will be "zero changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or education funding."

Toomey's press secretary, Steve Kelly, said on Friday that Toomey does not support changing social security for retirees or those nearing retirement, and that the senator is open to giving younger workers the option of putting a portion of their social security tax payment into an account they personally own and manage.

Toomey has supported Medicare and Medicaid reform.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Republican leaders "have the votes" to pass the controversial proposal. The Senate was reportedly close to holding a vote as of Friday afternoon.

The House passed its own version of the bill earlier this month.

Further detail on the Senate's proposal can be found here.