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Senate Democrats Blast New House Rule on Social Security

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Operating in the minority, Democrats are beginning to show signs of being aggressive in fighting against potential changes to entitlement programs they have long championed.  

Take, for example, Social Security. Senate Democrats are pushing against a change in House rules that makes it more difficult to reallocate Social Security taxes for those collecting from the Disability Trust Fund.  

In a letter sent Monday to Republican Senate leadership, eight senior members of the Senate's Democratic Conference decried the House move to establish a point of order against a fund transfer, which would would be needed next year to avert an almost 20-percent benefit cut for those receiving disability payments, unless there's somehow a broader agreement on Social Security funding.  

"This move is a particularly audacious in light of the fact that past reallocations have been commonplace and bipartisan. In fact, Congress has reallocated taxes between the Social Security retirement and disability trust funds 11 times before, in both directions, when it was needed to put either program on stronger footing," wrote the Democratic caucus members led by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking member on the Finance Committee.  

Wyden was joined by Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Charles E. Schumer of New York, Patty Murray of Washington, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, along with independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont.  

For conservatives, the point of order is a tool to push for broader action on Social Security and the long-term status of its disability insurance program, some have called the shift in funds, which could come up during the lame-duck session at the end of 2016 a bailout of SSDI.  

"Holding hostage the Social Security benefits of any American, particularly those of the 9 million Americans with disabilities who are at risk in the coming years, is an untenable proposition. It only increases the chances of yet another unnecessary manufactured crisis, akin to shutting down the government or threatening the full faith and credit of the United States, the senators wrote. "We ask that you speak out and forcibly reject the House Republican rule in order to take this reckless concept off the table and ensure Americans with disabilities that they can count on their government to act responsibly."  

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