Hoyer Tries to Put Social Security Reform on Front Burner

Posted May 6, 2009 at 2:53pm

In a year already jam-packed with major legislative initiatives, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is breathing new life into the idea of tackling Social Security reform.

During remarks at a Bipartisan Policy Center forum on Wednesday, Hoyer signaled that Democratic leaders may take steps to act on Social Security reform in the fall after Congress advances its two biggest priorities: health care reform and climate change legislation.

“Of our entitlement programs, I believe we would have the easiest challenge in reforming Social Security,— Hoyer said. “Frankly, I believe Social Security is not very difficult mathematically. It may be difficult politically, but not mathematically.—

Hoyer said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agrees that lawmakers need to act on Social Security reform and has talked to committee chairmen about the prospect of doing so.

“I think we can visit this in the fall and I hope we do that,— Hoyer said. The key to making any headway, he said, is being able “to create a bipartisan groundswell for doing that.—

Still, Hoyer acknowledged that there aren’t “many politicians who want to talk about entitlements.— The good news, he said, is that there is now a president making health care reform a priority.

In a bid for bicameral support, Hoyer said he has met with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal advocate for Social Security reform, and with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Social Security reform has long been on the Congressional plate, but partisan differences have sidelined progress on reforming it. Most recently, in 2005, then-President George W. Bush launched a major national effort to reform the system, but a major counter offensive from Congressional Democrats and liberal grass-roots organizations — fearing a privatization of the entitlement program — stopped it in its tracks.

On Wednesday, Hoyer emphasized that there is no firm plan in the works to overhaul this system, but that the goal is to “start trying to build consensus in the fall.—

“These are not sexy issues. They are not issues that resonate at a town hall meeting,— Hoyer added. “They will demand an extraordinary process.—