Senate Democrats have been facing significant pressure from their base and from their colleagues in the House to exclude Social Security from any broader effort to reform entitlement programs. However, Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), a member of the bipartisan deficit commission, has argued that nothing should be off the table.
Not anymore, apparently. The Hill reports:
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who is at the center of bipartisan talks, said he wants to prolong the solvency of Social Security to 75 years. Under its current setup, the program is projected to pay 100 percent of benefits for the next 26 years.
But Conrad does not want Social Security to be part of a broader proposal to reduce the $1.6 trillion federal deficit.
“It might be useful to have Social Security treated on a separate track because it is not part of the deficit reduction package,” Conrad told The Hill before the Presidents Day recess. “I think it should be separated.
“There are many who recognize we have a long-term challenge with Social Security, but that’s very separate from the deficit reduction,” Conrad said.
“When those two get put together, it creates huge problems to getting the deficit reduction done, because it confuses the issue.”
As Veronique de Rugy points out here, the notion that Social Security payments don’t contribute to the deficit is completely false — no matter how many times Democrats keep saying otherwise:
“Social Security isn’t contributing to the deficit now,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “We need to be working to ensure the long-term survivability of Social Security, but we’ve got a lot of other big budget challenges in the short term.
“What I think is important is for the broad public to realize that any changes to Social Security are going to stand on their own to ensure that Social Security is viable,” he said. “It’s not part of fixing the deficit.”
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Social Security reform should be handled separately “because it doesn’t affect the deficit.”
Conrad was always going to be the GOP’s most reasonable negotiating partner in any bipartisan compromise on entitlement reform. It’s not exactly a promising sign that he’s already starting to drift.