Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who is in line to be House speaker if his party wins control, told Punchbowl News last month he would not “predetermine” whether Social Security and Medicare cuts would be part of debt-limit negotiations. Those comments suggested that, unlike in past negotiations, Republicans could demand future cuts to the programs in order to raise America’s borrowing limit and avoid a default on government debt. Mr. McCarthy later told CNBC that he had not brought up the programs and was committed to “strengthening” them, though he did not provide details.

Asked whether Mr. McConnell would support any changes to the programs should Republicans capture the majority, aides pointed only to his specific comments about Mr. Scott’s plan.

With Mr. Biden in the White House, Republicans have little chance of securing changes to either program.

Democratic candidates and outside groups supporting them have spent $100 million nationwide this election cycle on ads mentioning Social Security or Medicare, according to data from AdImpact. Nearly half of that spending has come since the start of October.

“Far-right extremists are gutting retirement benefits,” a narrator says in an advertisement targeting Cassy Garcia, a Republican seeking to unseat Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, in a fiercely contested Texas district. “They’ll slash Medicare and Social Security — benefits we paid for with every paycheck.”

Republicans have campaigned far less on the programs, spending about $12 million this cycle on ads mentioning them. Republican candidates have largely embraced repealing the Inflation Reduction Act, which Mr. Biden signed in August and which reduces prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare. Some candidates have begun pushing back against Democratic attacks about Social Security and Medicare.

In a recent ad, Don Bolduc, a Republican challenging Senator Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire, says he will not “cut Social Security and Medicare for older Americans,” though it remains unclear if he would reduce benefits for future retirees. Mr. Bolduc spoke in favor of privatizing Medicare in August, Politico reported this fall.

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