Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, was among several members of congress who spoke at rally in Washington, D.C. yesterday. The event was organized by the liberal group Americans United for Change, which has run campaign ads in Iowa on Braley’s behalf. Each speaker, including Braley, emphasized retaining the “basic promise” of the financial safety net provided to seniors by Social Security and Medicare.
“We need to strengthen them, not destroy them through risky Tea Party schemes,” Braley said, to applause from the crowd. “Now why is that important in Iowa? It’s important because there are 500,000 Iowans who depend on Medicare and 600,000 who depend on Social Security. Many of those Iowans are people with disabilities and children.”
With a flurry of ads and campaign activity from all sides, both Braley and Braley’s Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, are being criticized on these issues and Ernst herself is currently starring in her own TV ad, saying she’ll “keep the promise” of Social Security and Medicare.
“If we’ve made promises, we need to keep those promises,” Ernst said earlier this month during an appearance at a retirement community in Des Moines.
During that event Ernst criticized Braley for saying in 2006 during his first campaign for congress that raising the retirement age could be an option for fixing the Social Security system. Yesterday, Braley said raising the retirement age was not a “solution.”
“And that’s why I have voted in the last four congresses not to raise the retirement age on Social Security and Medicare,” Braley said.
Ernst has said raising the retirement age is not an option for current retirees or those nearing retirement, but might be one of the options to consider for younger Americans in their 30s and 40s. Ernst has also accused Braley of voting to cut Medicare and Braley addressed that yesterday as well.
“Why not work to improve Medicare, make it work better by cutting out the waste, the fraud, the inefficiency which is exactly what we’ve done in the Affordable Care Act and make it work better for seniors who in Iowa are spending almost a thousand dollars a year less on prescription drugs than they did before the Affordable Care Act?” Braley asked.
Ernst has also said transitioning younger workers into private Social Security accounts is one of several options that could be under consideration as policymakers struggle to ensure the system remains solvent. Braley repeatedly calls that a “Tea Party” idea that would break the “basic promise” made to every generation of Americans.
“That’s if you work hard and you invest your money in these great programs, Social Security and Medicare, they’re going to be there when you need them,” Braley said at yesterday’s rally. “We’re here today to say: ‘Live up to that promise. Keep your hands off Social Security and Medicare.'”
Two recent polls on Iowa’s U.S. Senate race came to conflicting conclusions. One showed Braley ahead by a handful of percentage points, while the other showed Ernst ahead by the same margin. Most polling data on the race since June indicates it’s a dead heat.