At Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden drew frustrated boos and jeers from Republicans when he said that they wanted to cut Medicare and Social Security.

“Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a majority.”

Biden’s claims drew a head shake from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who sat behind him, and a loud, angry response from the Republican side of the chamber. 

“I’m not saying it’s a majority of you,” he continued. “But it’s being proposed by individuals. I’m politely not naming them.” 

Biden made the comments in regard to ongoing negotiations about raising the debt ceiling. Republicans have said they want Biden and Senate Democrats to cut spending before they agree to raise the debt limit again. 

But more than a week ago, McCarthy said both programs were “off the table” during negotiations over the debt ceiling. 

McCarthy and others said they were frustrated by the partisan nature of the attack, which seemed at odds with Biden’s request for a bipartisan approach to lawmaking in other parts of his speech. 

On Fox News on Wednesday morning, McCarthy continued to push back. 

“Social Security and Medicare are off the table,” he said. “He’s trying to play politics with the debt ceiling by not negotiating, by lying about our position.”

In recent days, McCarthy attended meetings at the White House, where it appeared the Biden administration and House Republicans may be working toward a solution on the debt ceiling. The partisan wrangling in the wake of the State of the Union address may set those talks back. 

Reforms to Social Security have long been considered a “third rail” of federal politics, but Republicans have raised concerns about the cost of both Medicare and Social Security, and some GOP lawmakers have suggested changes to the programs for younger workers.

Social Security is funded by current workers’ contributions to the program — the federal government has not saved past contributions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next decade, a gap is expected to form between what is paid into the program, and what gets paid out, pushing the cost of the program up. Spending on Medicare has also surged in recent years and is expected to continue to increase, according to the CBO.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has proposed the Time to Rescue United States Trust Act, which would look at ways to reform Social Security, Medicare and other federal programs that rely on trust funds. 

“It’s irresponsible for Congress to keep ignoring a preventable crisis,” he said in 2019, when first introducing the TRUST Act.