President Joe Biden’s $6.8 trillion budget proposal calls for major tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy along with protections for programs like Medicare and Social Security. With a divided Congress, House Republicans have signaled his plan will not move forward through the lower chamber. The GOP, in favor of spending cuts, has not yet released its budget.

Some New Yorkers are worried about the debt ceiling negotiations and have a message for Washington.

With plenty of signs to go around, a group of protesters attended Congressman Marc Molinaro’s town hall event in Saugerties to have their voices heard. Laurie Felber, a retired teacher, is a lead organizer.

“Right now, I’m very happy because we’re all here unified, we’re all here in solidarity because we all feel it’s so important to maintain our safety net for our elderly, maintain the safety net for our young people coming up,” Felber said. “I have kids who are in their 30s who are worried about their future.”

What You Need To Know

  • Protesters at a recent Marc Molinaro town hall are worried a Republican Congress may make cuts to or even end Social Security and Medicare as part of debt ceiling negotiations

  • Molinaro assured his constituents in the 19th Congressional district, saying "Medicare, Social Security, off the table in this discussion"

  • A recent Gallup poll says 63% of Americans over the age of 65 feel satisfied with the current state of Social Security and Medicare

Felber, who is with the Working Families Party, says her son moved to Mexico because he couldn’t afford health care in the U.S. For several years, Felber visited nursing homes to offer care to the elderly, connecting them to social services.

The fear among older Americans and some younger ones, too: Some are suspicious the Republican majority in Congress may make cuts, or even end the popular programs. The GOP insists Social Security and Medicare are off the table during budget talks. But if the debt ceiling isn’t addressed, there are concerns it may cause a delay in Social Security and Medicare payments; a blow to the middle class, says the 67-year-old Felber.

“It would be very devastating,” she said. “People have bills to pay, oil bills to pay, food to pay for. Food has gone up exorbitantly, the energy costs have gone up, and it’s very important. They need their Social Security.”

Inside the town hall, Molinaro fielded questions about the debt ceiling. The freshman congressman, a child of food stamps, assured his constituents in New York’s 19th Congressional district that Medicare and Social Security were “off the table in this discussion,” and reaffirmed his commitment to entitlement programs.

“You have to get the politics out, and that requires a bipartisan bicameral negotiation over time,” he said. “We have some time to ensure solvency and make Social Security and Medicare work for the next generation of employees, of citizens and Americans.”

Some Republicans have pitched the idea of raising Social Security’s full retirement age from 65 to 70.

“I don’t wanna raise the age; I don’t wanna cut services; I don’t wanna see anything, any part of it dismantled,” Molinaro said. “What I want is long-term solvency, and I want these two very important trusts – they’re not entitlements – these are trusts that have to be preserved.”

Felber wants Molinaro to vote clean on the budget, without taking a single dollar of benefit away from someone who earned it.

The majority of Americans support the programs. A recent Gallup poll says 63% of Americans over the age of 65 feel satisfied with the current state of Social Security and Medicare.