Anti-MAGA Group Urges Republican House Members to ‘Back Off Our Benefits’

Legislative Gazette photo
U.S. Army veteran Moises Montalvo speaks during the Albany stop on the “Back Off Our Benefits Tour,” warning Republican House members to “stop playing politics with our livelihoods.”

Courage for America — a group of military veterans, educators, faith leaders, and community leaders from across the country who are pushing back against the far-right Make America Great Again agenda — stopped in Albany on Wednesday, April 12 to urge Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, and other MAGA Republican House members to sign an official promise to keep benefits like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security intact for working-class Americans. 

Albany was the group’s 10th stop on their 14-district bus tour across the country to give a voice to veterans, seniors, educators, health care workers and small business owners who are trying to “counteract, delegitimize, and shift the narrative around MAGA extremists’ sham-investigations, anti-democratic antics and fake scandals.”

A few hours after the Albany stop, Courage for America made their 11th stop in the Hudson Valley in Saugerties. The tour kicked off on March 30 in Bakersfield, California, followed by two stops in Arizona, one in Colorado, another in Missouri, three in North Carolina, one in Pennsylvania, the two stops in New York, one in Ohio, one in Wisconsin and the final stop on April 17 in Washington D.C.

“House Republicans, including Representative Stefanik, are risking a major global economic crisis and major personal crisis for millions of Americans across this country to score political points,” said U.S. Army veteran Moises Montalvo. “As a veteran, I’m tired of being used, I’m tired of being a pawn. So we’re here to ask Rep. Stefanik one final time to promise to her constituents back off our hard-earned benefits and stop playing politics with our livelihoods.”

Their advocacy group was founded in November after the Republican Party secured a slim majority in the House of Representatives following the 2022 midterm elections. The Republican Party has a long recorded history trying to cut Medicare and Social Security in order to privatize these programs and give money back to Big Pharma. 

However, many of the representatives whose districts are stops on the bus tour have made public statements that suggest that they are advocating for the same issues as Courage for America. 

On the Social Security section of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s website it states, “Social Security financial solvency will be threatened in the next decade. Reforms must be made to strengthen the long-term fiscal health of the program so that our children and grandchildren can have a bright future for retirement.” 

Similarly, under the health care section on Congresswoman Stefanik’s page it states that she is “a tireless advocate for delivering high quality rural healthcare for North Country families and seniors by fighting to lower costs, improve quality, and strengthen accessibility.”

On March 2, it was reported by a White House insider that a group closely aligned with the Republican House leadership is spending over $2 million to accuse President Joe Biden of being the one who wants to cut Medicare funds. The Republican Party has also pledged to cut programs funded by annual appropriations in 2024 back to their 2022 levels as part of the deal to elect Rep. McCarthy as Speaker. 

House Republicans released the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 to decrease federal spending and address the debt ceiling. Stefanik said last week that the bill would “limit federal spending, save taxpayers trillions of dollars, grow our economy, and lift the debt limit into next year. This legislation will make us less dependent on the whims of the Chinese Communist Party and curb high inflation, all without touching Social Security or Medicare — because no one is hurt more by inflation than seniors.”

However, those involved in the Courage for America project remain skeptical.

“I can foresee the absolutely devastating effect that cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid would do for an already struggling community,” said Gabriella Romero, a public defender and a member of the Albany Common Council. “In the middle of this crisis, MAGA Republicans are trying to push this dangerous agenda to score political points within their party.

“With the rate Republicans are going right now they could force our economy into something of a national default,” Romero continued. “And what that means for you and I is the loss of 6 million jobs, our elders losing Social Security, Trump’s veterans losing their VA benefits and prices for everyday essential items would skyrocket. That’s not right. And that will exacerbate this already crisis that we’re experiencing right now coming out of COVID.”

Legislative Gazette photo by Endy Cepeda

Later that day, the bus tour stopped at the Frank D. Greco Memorial Senior Citizen Recreation Center in Saugerties following the Albany event.

Abe Uchitelle, an Ulster County legislator who represents part of the city of Kingston, said the Republicans in power don’t care about issues like the housing crisis or people who rely on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

“They know that if they ran on policies like putting benefits, they would never get elected,” Uchitelle said. “So instead, they run on policies like making it harder to vote, misrepresenting crime statistics, taking reproductive rights away from women, or trying to push the entire LGBT community into the shadows. This is how they’ve been winning.

Legislative Gazette photo by Endy Cepeda
Ulster County Legislator Abe Uchitelle spoke during a recent stop on the “Back Off Our Benefits” tour in Saugerties, N.Y.

“So they’re coming after our benefits,” Uchitelle added. “And they’re going to completely risk the economy in the process. These are not only unpopular policies that they’re putting forward, but they’re absolutely heartless.”

Columbia County resident Joyce Thompson noted how many Hudson valley residents relied on Social Security, Medicare and other other programs such as veterans services.

“Here in [the 19th Congressional District of New York], Medicare serves 166,000 residents, disability and SSI payments assist 14,000 people, SNAP serves 10 percent of our residents, and we all know veterans who rely on the medical and other benefits earned while serving their country,” Thompson said. “We all need to know that this country will honor our retirement savings and our service.”

Another Hudson Valley resident, Kathy Childs Gordon, urged her representatives, including Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-Red Hook, to protect these programs.

“Social Security and Medicare are all that stand between many senior citizens and poverty, between lives of dignity and lives of ill health and anxiety. These benefits must be protected, and we must not go backwards.”