During a radio interview with KOA host Ross Kaminsky last week, Denver businessman and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joe O’Dea said he supported limiting the size of the federal government and reducing funding for “some” programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Below is the audio and a full transcript of the exchange:
Ross Kaminsky: “I want to know, would you be willing to try to tackle some of these issues in Social Security and Medicare? You know, a lot of people talk about cutting them, but really what the plans are normally is just cutting the rate of growth of them. The left talks about that as a cut when you’re just going to grow it a little slower, are you willing to go grab those third rails of politics?”
Joe O’Dea: “Well, I think in order to manage the debt, you’re going to have to grab everything. It’s not going to be just one pill that fixes this thing. It’s going to be a reduction in bureaucracies. It’s going to be a reduction in the size of our government. It’s going to be a reduction in some of those programs. We’re going to have to go across the board and look at smart ways to get — we still need to fund it, but we just need to do it smart.”
Ross Kaminsky: “Even under Reagan. Our government grew. You know, it seems like such a tall task. And I completely share your goal, your vision. Do you see any realistic way to make government smaller or even just not bigger?”
Joe O’Dea: “I think you have to look at these bureaucracies and what they do. And if you know, what disturbed me during the COVID period is we heard that 60% of our federal employees were not deemed essential. What’s that tell you? That means there’s some fluff, there’s some fat there. And when you’re running a business, you look at that fat in a time of recession and you start to cut that back so you can make your business profitable again. We’ve got to have that same concept when we’re looking at our federal government. We need to make it small and efficient so that it can do the things that we needed to do like fund our police, fund our military, fund our infrastructure. Small, concise government.”
During the interview, O’Dea was clear in that while he still wants to fund these programs he wants to see the federal government as a whole reduced in size.
O’Dea has mentioned that he opposes entitlement funding in interviews before but has not specifically answered questions regarding his stance on Medicare and Social Security.
In April, Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Nico Delgado released a statement criticizing O’Dea and his Republican primary opponent state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) for staying silent on a GOP plan to decrease funding for Medicare and Social Security.
“Ron Hanks and Joe O’Dea would act as a rubber stamp for the Republican Party’s agenda to raise taxes and end Medicare and Social Security as we know it,” Delgado said. “Colorado can’t afford Ron Hanks, Joe O’Dea, or the Republican Party’s disastrous agenda.”
Earlier this year the Senate GOP’s campaign chief, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), released an election-year agenda that proposed federal programs like Medicare and Social Security be renegotiated every five years.
The plan was criticized by members of both parties, including by Senate Minority Leader U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but has been adopted by Republican candidates across the U.S. as part of their platform.
Also, during his 2020 presidential re-election campaign, Donald Trump said he wanted to cut taxes that help fund Social Security.
Despite these pushes from Republicans, Medicare and Social Security remain extremely popular. In 2020, Colorado had 939,000 people enrolled in Medicare and 916,000 people enrolled in Social Security.
An April poll conducted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found that 65% of battleground state voters would be less likely to support the GOP “if Senate Republicans have a new plan that would end Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in five years.”
A 2021 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 94% of adults 65 and older report being very satisfied with the quality of their medical care and the availability of specialists. The study also found that when compared to privately-insured adults, Medicare-covered adults had similar access to care and fewer cost-related problems.
Last week, however, the Biden administration enacted the highest Medicare premium increase in history and endorsed a plan to funnel Medicare funding towards private insurance companies.
O’Dea, who could not be reached for comment, is facing off against Hanks in a contentious Republican primary on June 28. The winner will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in November.