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Social Security Ties Democrats in Knots

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is among those who have spoken against recent proposals to cut Social Security.

Republicans also noted that Democrats’ political committees in both chambers have already begun making charges of a GOP plot to privatize Social Security a central campaign theme — which will make it difficult for either side to work on the issue.

“There is a problem but it’s being denied ... and we cannot do anything until they call off the dogs,” the House GOP leadership aide said.

Several Republican aides said that without Democrats coming on board, they have no plans to push a Social Security reform bill through the House.

And without Democratic cover, Boehner last week walked back his proposal to increase the Social Security retirement age to 70, telling CNN that he made a “mistake” by offering a specific proposal last year before having that all-important “conversation” with the public.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) likewise has been appealing to Reid, as well as to Obama, to back a bipartisan effort on entitlements, without endorsing anything specific.

Democrats in both chambers continue to pound Republicans for backing privatization, an idea almost universally opposed on the Democratic side.

“Republicans have a long record of pushing to privatize it and they are even talking about privatizing Medicare by including the Ryan voucher plan in their budget,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami noted Monday.

Deficit hawks like Conrad seized on last week’s report from the Congressional Budget Office that the deficit will hit
$1.5 trillion this year — and that Social Security itself is starting to drain cash from the Treasury rather than running a surplus — as a prod to action.

But other Democrats are pushing back. Schumer and several other Democrats formed a new Social Security caucus last week to protect the program.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a member of the new caucus, downplayed talk of any division in his party and said Social Security cuts should be taken off the table.

“Very few Democrats want to raise the retirement age. Very few Democrats want to cut a program that is the strongest pension program in America,” he said. “I just don’t think there is any real split in the party.”

He blamed the Social Security push on Republicans who don’t like the program.

“They cut taxes on the rich one month, and the next month they go after people who get $1,100 a month after paying in all their lives,” he said. “It’s a moral question for us, not a political one.”

Baucus, who voted against the fiscal commission proposal in part because of its cuts to Social Security, continues to oppose cutting benefits.

“Social Security is not the cause of our deficit problem,” he said in a statement.

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