House liberals warn Obama they'll oppose Social Security cuts

House liberals are pressuring President Obama’s debt commission to avoid cuts to Social Security benefits as it seeks ways to right the nation’s fiscal ship.

In a letter to the panel’s chairmen, the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday threatened to oppose any recommendations that “cut or diminish Social Security in any way.”

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“We write to express our strong opposition to any potential proposal from your commission that would undermine Social Security by reducing benefits, increasing the retirement age, or privatizing elements of the program,” caucus co-chairmen Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) wrote in the letter, which was provided to The Hill.

“We will not allow the commission to reduce Social Security payments, especially during an economic downturn that has wiped out trillions of dollars in net worth around the country.

“Any recommendations from your commission must be enacted by both houses of Congress. If any of those recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them.”

With 82 members, the progressive caucus can wield significant influence on the Democratic agenda, although previous threats to oppose healthcare legislation that did not include a public insurance option were not followed through. Many Democrats have questioned claims by Republicans and some economists that the Social Security system is in crisis.

The bipartisan commission, led by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson, will issue recommendations to reduce the nation’s long-term debt and deficit on Dec. 1. Fourteen of the panel’s 18 members must sign on to the proposals. Democratic congressional leaders have pledged to bring the proposals to a vote in the House and Senate, provided the party retains control of Congress in the November midterm elections.

While Obama has said all options must be on the table for reducing the debt, the panel has faced an avalanche of pressure from both sides of the political aisle. Democrats have pushed to leave Social Security out of the debate, while some Republicans have warned that the panel is a stalking horse for broad tax increases.

Many economists and fiscal experts have said a combination of spending cuts, entitlement reform and tax increases will be necessary to rein in deficits that are running into the trillions of dollars.

This story was initially posted with an incorrect time stamp.