As a first-term senator from Delaware, President Joe Biden introduced a bill that would sunset all federal programs every four years, the same policy goals that he criticized “some Republicans for during his Tuesday evening State of the Union address.
The legislation the now-president put forward in the Senate in July of 1975, when the economy of the U.S. was in a steep nosedive, would have eliminated “all provisions of law” which permit “new budget authority for a period of more than four fiscal years,” showed the congressional record.
The sunset provisions Biden championed would have applied to programs including Medicare and Social Security and the defense budget.
“It requires every program to be looked at freshly at least once every four years. The examination is not just of the increased cost of the program, but of the worthiness of the entire program,” said Biden of his 1975 fiscal crunch bill.
In the speech he delivered introducing the legislation, Biden — who pushed to pass the $739 billion government spending package called the Inflation Reduction Act last year — bemoaned the “staggering” size of the federal budget and the “rate that it is increasing.”
A decade later, and on three other occasions, the then-Senator Biden advocated freezing all federal spending.
In 1984, Biden supported a spending freeze citing the “upward march of interest rates and inflation.” Biden argued the American people “are not stupid” and would support the spending freeze.
Also, in 1984, the now-president supported an amendment introduced by Democrat Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, which would link an increase in the debt limit to an overall freeze on federal spending.
“My mother says there is nothing like looking over a precipice to focus one’s attention,” Biden said then, amid the country’s increasing debt obligations.
When Tsongas withdrew the amendment, Biden voted against increasing the debt ceiling.
The following year, Biden suggested freezing all federal spending for two years. He argued during a speech on the floor of the Senate that, “If the President again submits an outrageous budget, congress should give serious consideration to an immediate across-the-board freeze for the next two years in federal spending and a two-year suspension of tax indexing.”
Biden continued to support freezing federal spending far into the 1990s
In 1995, Senator Biden complained on the Senate floor that his 1975 push to sunset all federal programs never made it out of Congress.
“When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well; I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government,” Biden said.
“And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice. I tried it the third time, and I tried it the fourth time,” lamented Biden.
The renewed interest in the president’s decades-long support for sunsetting bloated federal programs was mocked by many Republicans who claim that the president lied during his State of the Union speech when he stated, “Some Republicans want Medicare and Socials Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s the majority…anybody who doubts it, contact my office.”
“I don’t have a bill to sunset Medicare and Social Security, but [Joe Biden] did,” tweeted GOP Senator Rick Scott of Florida on Wednesday, sharing the text of the 1975 Biden proposal.
“I always wondered why [Joe Biden] was so insistent on lying to attack me. Now, we know: he has a guilty conscience. He actually did what he is falsely accusing me of doing,” added Scott in another tweet.
“If a law is worth keeping. Congress can pass it again,” tweeted Scott.
The Republican National Committee also targeted Biden’s anti-spending past.
“Biden’s spent the last year falsely claiming that Republicans are threatening Social Security and Medicare (they aren’t). Biden claims Republicans back a plan to sunset all federal legislation after five years (they don’t). Guess who did support such a plan? Joe Biden,” tweeted RNC’s deputy communications director, Zach Parkinson.