Video: Social Security chief actuary confirms a decision to withhold checks would come from the Treasury

I’ve been a fan of Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp for a while now. This video of his excellent line of questioning during a Budget Committee hearing this morning shows why:

Don’t you just love how calm and cheerful he is, as he hammers away at the truth? Even Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, couldn’t help but smile as Huelskamp asked for his help getting to the bottom of why Social Security checks might not go out Aug. 3, when the nation clearly has enough money — even under a debt limit budget — to cover the interest on its debt, Social Security and more (Huelskamp even had the chart to prove it!).

Goss confirmed the decision to send out Social Security checks (or not) would, indeed, be a Treasury Department (a.k.a. the administration’s) decision.

“The responsibility of the Social Security Administration per se, my boss, Commissioner Astrue, is to in fact determine how much in the way of benefit payments people are supposed to receive,” Goss said. “We send that information actually over to the Department of the Treasury. They are the ones who actually send out the payments, whether it’s electronic funds, transfers, or check.”

At that point, Huelskamp called out — in an admirably wry, polite way (a question is far friendlier than an accusation!) — what everybody in that hearing room already knew:

“I guess we’ll have to ask the Department of the Treasury and we’re having difficulty getting answers from them, but I see under no circumstances unless it was a political decision that the administration would refuse or withhold Social Security checks because there are sufficient receipts,” Huelskamp says in the video. “Can I ask you to ask the Treasury Department — because the administration just really doesn’t want to provide information and when you stand on the evening news and make a statement that 40-some million Americans are going to not receive their checks — would you ask the administration are they planning on withholding those checks and is there a reason they wouldn’t make those payments on Aug. 3?”

Goss said he’d be happy to work with Huelskamp to find an answer to his questions. Can’t wait to hear ’em.