It does not surprise me that Dick Durbin didn't sign it, since he's been out pounding the drum for his beloved Grand Bargain. I wonder how many of these guys will stick to their word when they start getting pressure from the White House?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and 28 other members of the 53-member Senate Democratic caucus have signed a letter opposing any cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.
The letter forms a significant marker as Congress looks toward a possible deficit bargain in the lame-duck session after the election. It says Social Security has problems down the road, but that they should be dealt with separately from any budget deal.
Cuts to Social Security and other entitlements are seen as key to getting the bipartisan cooperation of Republicans in any deal, just as revenue increases are key for Democrats. The Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan produced by President Obama's deficit commission contained Social Security cuts, including a change in the way inflation is calculated and an increase in the retirement age.
The letter could reduce the chances for a long-term, multi-trillion-dollar deal soon. Congress will need to put some kind of deal in place before January to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of indiscriminate spending cuts and tax increases.
The Senate's number three Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), also signed the letter. Notably, Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who supported Bowles-Simpson, did not.
The letter was organized by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.).
"To be sure, Social Security has its own long-term challenges that will need to be addressed in the decades ahead. But the budget and Social Security are separate, and should be considered separately," the letter states.