Romney's legislation, the Time to Rescue United States Trusts Act, or TRUST Act for short, was included in the Senate Republicans' most recent proposal for coronavirus relief. But talks have now stalled with both the House and Senate adjourning until September.
Romney, R-Utah, has been pushing the bill since Oct. 2019, however, and argues the special committees it sets up to produce fast-tracked bills addressing the Medicare, Social Security and highway trust funds could save the programs from having to make major cuts.
"These trust funds are all projected to expire within a decade or so, in some cases just within two or three years," Romney said. "So in order to avoid a dramatic reduction in benefits for these programs, we need to take action now to make sure that we save them and we assure their long term solvency."
He added: "Medicare, for instance, the trust is projected to run out within three to four years. Social Security looks like about 12 years. And in the case, for instance, of what happens when the Social Security trust fund is gone, which would happen in 10 to 12 years, under the law, that would result in approximately a 30% reduction of benefits. So that's unacceptable. That cannot happen."
Romney also responded to criticism of the TRUST Act that it is a "backdoor cut" to Social Security and Medicare, saying that significant cuts to the programs would not fly in Congress and that the goal is to ensure benefits from the programs are available to those who are currently middle-aged and younger.
"I can assure you, there is no way the Democrats or the Republicans are going to vote for cuts to people who are on Social Security or Medicare. This is not going to happen. Neither party wants that to happen," he said. "What we're looking at is what has to be done down the road to make sure there's enough revenue coming in to assure that the young people that are going to rely on Social Security and Medicare 20, 30, 40 years from now actually have a program that solvent and that can provide the benefits which are being promised today."
Concerns about the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare have lingered for decades, with efforts to address them during previous presidential administrations coming up short. During the Obama administration, the Simpson-Bowles Commission couldn't get significant changes passed, and former President George W. Bush's efforts at reforming Social Security during his second term floundered.
The Trump administration has yet to put any sustained focus on doing something about the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.