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Bush hanging tough on Social Security overhaul
Scripps Howard News Service


April 27, 2005

Washington - By extending his 60-day, 60-stop tour stumping for private Social Security accounts, President Bush hopes to rekindle support for a plan that's steadily lost steam during his barnstorming:

- A public once open to carving investment accounts out of Social Security taxes now opposes the change. A new ABC-Washington Post poll shows 64 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the issue, with support down 10 percent even among Republicans since March, while a UBS bank poll finds most investors don't like the accounts.

- Support is weak where it counts, in the Senate Finance Committee, which will draft the bill despite some calls for Bush to propose a concrete plan.

By summer, Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says he will unveil a measure that achieves "sustainable solvency" - or keeps Social Security in balance for at least 75 years - so it's there, as he puts it, for "Grandpa Grassley ... and my granddaughter when she retires 56 years from now."

Grassley's bill will start with some form of personal accounts, but "obviously I do fail" if the details cannot command majority support from the committee's 11 Republicans and nine Democrats, plus a filibuster-proof 60 senators.

A hearing Tuesday showed support for Bush's proposal lackluster even among Senate Republicans.

House Republicans could ram through a plan Bush likes, but nothing clears Congress without the bipartisan support from 60 senators.

Democrats refuse to take the bait to come up with their own plan. Instead, they say Bush must take private accounts off the table before they deal on a package that will include benefit cuts, tax increases, a raised retirement age, trillions in new federal debt or budget reductions, or all of the above.

But Bush is hanging tough on private accounts.

"The president told me that private accounts will be on the table to the last day," said New York Rep. Charles Rangel, ranking Democrat on the House committee in charge of Social Security. "And when he leaves, private accounts are going with him."



E-mail Mary Deibel at DeibelM(at)

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