GOP Senator Disagrees With Ernst’s Social Security Comments

Photo by Gage Skidmore

By Elizabeth Meyer

December 16, 2019

Unlike Sen. Joni Ernst, her Republican colleague, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, doesn’t think Social Security reform should be hashed out “behind closed doors,” according to an audio recording provided to Starting Line.

Gardner was heard rebuking Ernst’s claim Dec. 6 at a holiday party in Denver, hosted by his political action committee, Project West PAC.

“Joni Ernst says to do it behind closed doors, is that your idea?” a man asked Gardner.

“I don’t think you should do anything behind closed doors,” Gardner replied.

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The question posed to Gardner, a first-term senator up for reelection in 2020, was in reference to comments made by Ernst in late August, in which she said at a town hall meeting in Iowa: “… I do think as various parties and members of Congress, we do need to sit down behind closed doors so we’re not being scrutinized by this group or the other, and just have an open and honest conversation about what are some of the ideas that we have for maintaining Social Security in the future.”

Like Ernst, Gardner is considered a “vulnerable” Republican senator, according to Morning Consult’s quarterly Senator Approval Rankings.

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According to Morning Consult’s polling, Ernst saw a drop of 9 percentage points among Iowa voters, the biggest decline in net approval for any senator. Gardner’s support was down 3 percentage points, and he has a home-state approval rating below 40 percent.

John Hickenlooper, a former governor of Colorado and past Democratic presidential candidate, hopes to unseat Gardner next year.

Before he was elected to the Senate in 2014, Gardner served as a member the House of Representatives. There, he supported an unsuccessful bill to reduce the inflation-adjusted increase in individual Social Security benefits.

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At the Christmas fundraiser, Gardner was asked if he thought Social Security reform could be accomplished in Congress.

“It’s tough right now the way things are to see any significant Social Security reform,” Gardner said. “The first thing the Congress needs to do is to stop borrowing against the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for programs it can’t afford right now. It’s your money, you put it in there, stop spending it. So, that’s the first thing that needs to happen. They did a few changes here a couple years ago that had bipartisan support, but that’s about it.”

Gardner said “both parties” were interested in reform but they needed to “find the right balance” between differing ideas.

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By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 12/16/19



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