Biden named names on Social Security dispute. Utah Sen. Mike Lee was one of them

Utah Sen. Mike Lee was among those in the House chamber who disputed President Joe Biden’s claim that some Republicans want to cut Social Security.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee was among those in the House chamber who disputed President Joe Biden’s claim that some Republicans want to cut Social Security. (Mariam Zuhaib, Associated Press)

Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden didn't want to name names during his State of the Union address of Republicans in Congress of those who he says want to get rid of Social Security.

But he did in a speech in Wisconsin on Wednesday, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee was one of them.

The president drew an angry chorus of boos and jeers from Republicans and a head shake from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who sat behind him, when he said Tuesday night that they wanted to cut Medicare and Social Security.

"There was a senator named Mike Lee who was yelling, you know, liar, liar, house on fire kind of stuff last night," said Biden speaking at a training facility run by the Laborers' International Union of North America.

Biden then went on to quote Lee at a 2010 campaign event captured on video.

"It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it ... Medicaid and Medicare are of the same sort. They need to be pulled up," Lee said at a meeting with voters in Cache Valley during his first run for office.

After quoting Lee's remarks, Biden said, "Sounds pretty clear to me. How about you? But they sure didn't like me calling them on it."

In a statement Wednesday, Lee said Biden left out the part where he acknowledged that the government has to honor the commitments made to those who have paid into the system for decades and have relied on those benefits.

"In repeatedly quoting my 2010 remarks today, President Biden conveniently left out that critical detail — that even when I voiced that position, I insisted that we honor the reliance interests of those who have paid into the system," Lee said.

Lee said Biden also ignored that in his 12 years in the Senate, he never proposed to abolish Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare but has offered solutions to improve the programs and make them solvent.

In the video from the campaign event, Lee said, "There's going to be growing pains associated with doing this. We can't do it all at once."

"We have to hold harmless those who are current beneficiaries. Those who are retired and are currently receiving those benefits, their benefits have to be untouched, unchanged, unphased. The next layer beneath them, those who will retire in the next few years, also probably have to be held harmless."

Lee was among Republicans in the House chamber who reacted strongly to Biden's insistence that some want to sunset Social Security. Afterward he said in a video that the State of the Union was different than any other he has attended because the "president of the United States looked us right in the eye and mischaracterized what half the people in the chamber believe."

We should not trust the federal government with sweeping power over people's livelihoods.

–Sen. Mike Lee

During last year's election, independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin also attacked Lee over his 2010 comments.

Just days before Election Day, McMullin rolled out an ad showing the video clip of Lee saying he wants to get rid of Social Security. McMullin said he found Lee's statements "shocking" and "extreme."

The Lee campaign pointed out, as the senator did in his statement responding to Biden, that the ad failed to include his comments about holding current Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients harmless.

In a meeting with the editorial boards of Ogden's Standard-Examiner and the Provo Daily Herald during the election last year, Lee was asked about the 2010 statement. He said he didn't recall advocating for dismantling Social Security or other social programs, saying "that's sensitive stuff."

"But I don't remember ever, in any time since I first became a candidate for the Senate, ever saying, 'No, we just have to end Social Security and uproot all the expectations of those who've paid into it,'" he said.

In his statement Wednesday, and as he has expressed in the past, Lee said Congress has long used Social Security as a slush fund.

"Congress steals from it, raids it, and otherwise ruins it," he said. "We should not trust the federal government with sweeping power over people's livelihoods."

Related stories

Most recent Utah congressional delegation stories

Related topics

Utah congressional delegationUtahU.S.Politics
Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast