U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin promised Friday to fight to preserve Social Security and Medicare.
At a senior citizen forum in Hagerstown, Cardin, D-Md., denounced efforts in Washington, D.C., to cut the entitlement programs for senior citizens.
Cardin mentioned a budget proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., that would have made large cuts in federal spending and restructured Medicare. The Republican-majority House of Representatives approved the plan, but the Democratic-majority Senate rejected it.
Cardin, who is running for a second six-year term in the Senate, stopped at the new C. Williams Brooks senior citizen housing center on West Baltimore Street in Hagerstown to talk about senior citizen issues.
In September, Cardin was scheduled to be at the grand opening celebration for the housing center, which is run by the Hagerstown Housing Authority, but couldn't make it because the Senate was in session.
He told the audience on Friday that he was proud of the housing center and that it was built with federal stimulus money.
The building cost $14.5 million, about two-thirds of which was stimulus money.
"Thank you, President Obama, for your leadership in giving us the ability to help rebuild our communities," Cardin said.
Cardin said there are "two visions" for Medicare — giving senior citizens a voucher to get private insurance care, the Ryan approach, or expanding the current program, which Cardin said he supports.
Cardin said he also objects to attempts to privatize Social Security.
"Social Security will always be there for you," he said.
The senator fielded a handful of questions and comments from the audience of about 30 people.
Michael Conway asked Cardin why food stamps can't be used to buy hot, prepared foods or paper products.
Cardin said there is plenty of debate about food stamps, which were originally intended to provide basic food staples for low-income households. He said he supports having some flexibility in the food-stamp program.
Jennifer Colvin told Cardin that she wasn't able to buy new eyeglasses through Medicare.
Cardin said Medicare is a great program, but many people need supplemental insurance to go with it.
"I want to see Medicare expanded to cover essential services that aren't covered today," he said.
Nancy Taylor said she received a cost-of-living increase in her Social Security, but her rent also increased.
Cardin agreed that that is a challenge and said some in Washington favor an index with a lower cost-of-living increase.