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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump warned his fellow Republicans on Friday not to “destroy” federal pension and health benefits as they try to force cuts from President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies in the looming debate over the debt ceiling.

“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut off even one penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a two-minute video message posted on social media that could test his influence among the Republicans who now control the U.S. House of Representatives .

“Don’t cut into the benefits our seniors have worked and paid for all their lives. Save Social Security. Don’t destroy it!”

Trump’s call to protect the two largest federal spending programs could put him at odds with some House Republicans, who have said they shouldn’t leave the table in budget talks.

Social Security, which provides retirement and disability benefits, accounted for 17% of federal spending in fiscal 2021, while Medicare, the senior health insurance program, accounted for 13%, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Both programs are expected to grow dramatically in the coming years due to an aging population.

Trump, who launched his 2024 presidential reelection bid in November, was rebuffed by conservative House Republicans earlier this month when he urged them to line up behind Representative Kevin McCarthy as he attempted to lead the chamber.

Trump’s video appeared a day after the US Treasury Department hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit, forcing the agency to use “extraordinary” cash management measures to pay its bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has asked Congress to raise the limit immediately to avoid a default, which she says could occur on June 5.

Republicans, with their newly won majority in the House, want to force sharp cuts from Biden and congressional Democrats. They also plan to appeal to the Treasury to continue making debts and other payments if the government defaults without an agreement to raise the loan limit.

Republicans want the federal budget balanced within a decade, and some have said changes to Social Security and Medicare should be considered. But House Republican leaders have called for the popular programs to be kept.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and House Democrats leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement they want to “move quickly” to raise the cap.

Trump urged Republicans to focus cuts on “waste, fraud and abuse,” as well as programs targeting foreign aid, immigration, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

Reporting by David Morgan; edited by Andy Sullivan and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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