BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Friday afternoon California seniors gathered in Bakersfield to call on Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) to protect social security and Medicare, despite the Speaker’s pledge not to cut the programs.

It comes as the topics have caused a political firestorm over the last few months as McCarthy and President Joe Biden look to reach a deal to fund the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling. 

The California Alliance for Retired Americans said it sent seven buses of seniors from all parts of the state to Yokuts Park right around the corner from McCarthy’s Bakersfield office for the event.

“Keep your hands off our social security and our Medicare,” event attendee and President of Social Security Works PAC Jon “Bowzer” Bauman said. “Social security and Medicare have kept more people out of poverty than any other domestic program. Please do not try to privatize. Do not try to raise the retirement age.”

Another attendee, Tish Leon, who retired from her career in accounting and office management and traveled from San Diego for the event, said she fears what would happen if her social security was cut.

“It’s my source of income. I would have to make choices do I pay my mortgage or do I go without food or medical. It’s scary,” Leon said.

According to the most recent data in 2021, about 32,000 people in Kern County receive social security.

Since the start of the new Congress, social security and Medicare have been in the political spotlight, even leading to a combative moment during February’s State of the Union Address when President Biden said some Republicans want to sunset the programs despite McCarthy’s clear message on the topic.

“Cuts to Medicare and social security — they are off the table,” McCarthy said on Feb. 6, a day before Biden’s State of the Union address.

In a statement to 17 News McCarthy emphasized he will not cut the programs adding “House Republicans will work to rein in reckless deficit spending and pay our debts without adversely impacting either of these programs.”

On the topic of Medicaid, the Speaker’s office said “Many of my House colleagues and I believe that reforms are needed to Medicaid to ensure benefits are going to those truly in need, as well as to end improper payments in this program.”