Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) abruptly cut off Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a hearing Thursday and declared, “That’s a lie,” when Yellen said that President Biden is ready to work with Congress on reforming Social Security.
“What, doesn’t the president care?” Cassidy asked during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Biden’s budget.
“He cares very deeply,” Yellen answered.
“Then where is his plan?” Cassidy interjected.
“He stands ready to work with Congress…” Yellen began answering when Cassidy cut her off.
“That’s a lie,” Cassidy exclaimed.
“Because when a bipartisan group of senators has repeatedly requested to meet with him about Social [Security] so that someone who is a current beneficiary will not see her benefits cut by 24 percent, we have not heard anything on our request,” Cassidy said.
That heated interaction prompted Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to step in and admonish Cassidy for breaching Senate decorum.
“I would just caution colleagues, we’ve got plenty of differences around here but accusing witnesses of lying is over the line,” Wyden said.
Cassidy softened a bit and explained that he wasn’t accusing Yellen of lying but repeating a talking point that didn’t match reality.
“I accept that, and I did not mean that for the Madam Secretary who is merely saying that which she’s been told, I’m saying it for an empiric observation — when the president says he’s ready to meet, then he’s turned down…” the Louisiana senator started to explain before Wyden cut him off.
“The time of the gentlemen is expired. Accusing witnesses of lying is over the line,” Wyden repeated tersely.
Cassidy later insisted to reporters that he did not call Yellen a liar.
“I didn’t call her a liar. She’s got talking points. She was told that the president has said that. Just because she’s reporting what she was told the president said, that’s not making me call her a liar,” Cassidy.
“Whoever gave that talking point either doesn’t know that there’s been multiple attempts to speak to [Biden,] or knows it and decided it’s better pub[licity] to say something different,” he said.
Asked if he expected the hearing to be so tense, Cassidy pointed out that Biden has called for nearly $5 trillion in tax increases without proposing “a dime” in new funding for Social Security, referring to the budget plan the White House sent to Congress last week.