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(LISTEN): Protecting Social Security is a top priority for Missourian who chairs U.S. House Ways and Means

(LISTEN): Protecting Social Security is a top priority for Missourian who chairs U.S. House Ways and Means

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem) visits the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on February 27, 2024 (photo from 939 the Eagle’s Brian Hauswirth)

A powerful southern Missouri congressman who chairs the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee says protecting Social Security is crucial to his rural district and to the nation.

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem), who’s the first Missourian to chair Ways and Means since Congressman John Phelps in 1859, tells 939 the Eagle that protecting Social Security must be bipartisan and must be done the right way.

“Social Security according to CBO (the Congressional Budget Office) will be insolvent by 2032-2033. So Congress is going to have to do something to take care of it or it’s going to drastically affect all the folks that’s on Social Security. My mother is 80 years old, she’s on Social Security. If I don’t take care of that program, I won’t be allowed in for Thanksgiving,” Congressman Smith says.

Governor Mike Parson (right) meets with U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem) and others at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on February 14, 2023 (file photo courtesy of the governor’s Twitter

The Social Security Act was signed by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. Then-President Ronald Reagan (R) and then U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D) brokered a well-known 1983 bipartisan deal on Social Security. The deal succeeded in extending the Social Security trust fund’s solvency for a few generations.

Congressman Smith traveled to Jefferson City this week to file for his sixth full term on Capitol Hill. He was first elected to Congress in 2013 and served as a Missouri state representative for eight years before that, from 2005-2013. He served as Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem. Congressman Smith, whose sprawling rural district includes Rolla in our listening area, says there’s still work to be done to make his constituents’ lives better.

“They’ve been facing one crisis after another. Whether it’s the inflation crisis, you’re looking at the folks in my congressional district that the median income household is right around $42,000 for a family of four,” Smith says.

Congressman Smith, who represents eight of Missouri’s ten poorest counties in his sprawling district, says inflation is hurting working families and farmers in his district:

“When you’ve seen inflation rise almost 18 percent in the last couple of years, that’s tough for those folks to put food on their table, clothes on their backs and gasoline in their cars. So we’ve got to get the economic policies right to make sure that does not happen again,” Congressman Smith says.

Two Democrats have also filed for the seat: they are Hillsboro’s Franklin Delano Roth II and Randi McCallian of Edgar Springs. Filing continues until March 26. Southeast Missouri, which used to be a Democratic stronghold, is now bright red. They haven’t sent a Democrat to Washington in 44 years, since then U.S. Rep. Bill Burlison (D-Wardell) served. Congressman Burlison lost his 1980 re-election bid to Republican Bill Emerson.