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President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Max Richtman holds a press conference at Fairpark in Tupelo to suppport Mike Espy Monday afternoon.

TUPELO • A national senior advocacy group is making the case that Mike Espy is the best choice to protect Social Security and Medicare.

“It’s a system we need to protect,” said Max Richtman, president and chief executive officer for the Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “We feel that Mike Espy is the right person to have in the Senate.”

Richtman spoke to Espy supporters in front of Tupelo City Hall on Monday. He is traveling Mississippi to announce the committee’s support for Espy’s Senate campaign. He will be in Jackson Tuesday for a rally and a tele-town hall.

Espy is facing Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith to permanently fill the unexpired term of Sen. Thad Cochran in a runoff election Nov. 27.

“A Mike Espy win would be an earthquake,” Richtman said.

The Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare was founded by James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1983. The president’s grandson, Jim Roosevelt Jr. still serves on the organization’s advisory board. The organization has 4.5 million members, including 14,000 in Mississippi.

In making its endorsement, Richtman pointed to Espy’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1987 and 1993. Espy consistently voted to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“He voted on behalf of senior citizens,” Richtman said.

While an Espy win wouldn’t change which party is in the majority in the Senate, a smaller margin gives moderate Republicans and Democrats more leverage, Richtman said.

The Republicans have proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as ways to reduce the deficit that ballooned after the tax cuts were enacted earlier this year, Richtman said.

“All the members of Congress that voted for it stayed quiet about what happens next,” Richtman said.

With the Democrats set to take over control of the House of Representatives, Richtman said he anticipates there will be a legislation that strengthens Social Security and Medicare. The smaller the margin between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate increases the chances that the bills will be passed by Congress, especially ahead of the 2020 elections in a larger number of Republican senators face re-election.

A current bill with 180 cosponsors would reset the cost of living adjustment formula and add a small increase to the minimum benefit, Richtman said. It proposes expanding the FICA payroll, which is currently capped at $130,000. The proposal would leave the existing cap but reinstate it for those making more than $400,000. The measure would extend Social Security through 2100.

“This is a really significant race,” Richtman said.

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