The creation of the caucus and the high rate of membership represents yet another leftward shift for the Democratic Party since Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. The Social Security debate among Democrats in Congress has changed from liberals arguing whether they can stomach any cuts to liberals arguing over how many more benefits they should demand.
The main Social Security expansion bill in the House from Rep. John Larson of Connecticut had only 54 co-sponsors when it was introduced in 2015, and it now has 173 (174 expected by week’s end, according to his office). If Democrats win back control of Congress in November, Larson, a co-chair of the caucus, would likely become the chairman of the Social Security subcommittee, which would give him the power to initiate legislative action.
“I’ve seen a change,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said of her Democratic colleagues' approach to the issue. “It’s become increasingly clear that [seniors] are facing a retirement crisis.” Warren has been arguing for the expansion of Social Security since shortly after she arrived in the Senate in 2013 and will co-chair the Senate side of the caucus along with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Even the self-styled center-left think tank Third Way, which in 2013 criticized proposals to expand Social Security as “populist political and economic fantasy,” has recently been promoting a “universal private retirement program.” The plan supplements Social Security through a minimum pension fund paid into by employers. “Our feeling is that there just needs to be a new social contract and one of those things is retirement,” Jim Kessler, who is the think tank’s senior vice president for policy, told VICE News.