Democrats told to press Social Security fears over recess

Democratic leaders encouraged their rank-and-file to use recent controversial remarks by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to differentiate their party from Republicans over the weeklong recess break.

Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Thursday that his members head home for the recess focused on five issues; key among those is how Democrats would handle Social Security.

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Larson ticked off the points in an interview, including “a focus on seniors and differentiating the need to have Social Security remain solvent and not used to pay for the war,” Larson chortled, a reference to Boehner’s recent comments in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Earlier this week, the Tribune-Review published an interview with the top-ranking House Republican in which the newspaper reported that Boehner floated the idea of paying for the war in Afghanistan with money from the Social Security trust fund.

Boehner later denied saying that in an interview with The Hill but Democrats, including fellow Buckeye State lawmakers, called Boehner “un-American” and “outrageous and callous.”

The effort appears to be an election-year grasp at stoking the flames of fear that seniors will lose government benefits or that the age of Social Security recipients will be raised to 70.

"I never said those things," Boehner said. "I never said anything about privatizing Social Security or using money from the Social Security trust fund to pay for the war.”

That didn’t stop Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from attacking his comments at an event on Thursday.

Pelosi appears to have previewed the recess talking point on the matter: "In the Congress, Republicans want to privatize Social Security. We are opposed to that."  

Budget Committee Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has a plan to privatize Social Security that has not been endorsed by the entire conference, though.

Larson also said that Democrats would focus on financial regulation reform, which passed the House on Wednesday with only three GOP votes.

Democrats delighted in singling out Boehner for comparing the financial crisis to an ant, in the same interview with the Tribune-Review.

The ribbing instigated a verbal tit-for-tat between President Barack Obama and Boehner that symbolized the true start of election season.

Boehner eventually called on the president to quit “whining,” clarifying that his metaphor was taken out of context.

The top-ranking Republican previewed his party’s recess message on Thursday as well, when he attacked the president for “failing to lead,” adding, “Democrats here on Capitol Hill are rushing out of town to watch fireworks and eat macaroni salad instead of getting the American people’s work done.”

Specifically, GOP lawmakers hoping to win 39 seats needed to recapture control of the lower chamber in November will hit the Democrats for not passing a budget resolution, leaving town without sending an emergency war funding bill to the president and failing to stimulate job creation despite passing the economic stimulus measure last year.

The glossy packet that GOP Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) created for his rank-and-file lawmakers recommends that they hit Democrats on “Jobs and the Economy,” “Budget and Spending,” “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill,” “Afghanistan,” “Healthcare” and “Taxpayer Dollars and Abortion.”

Republicans will continue “listening” to constituents for the “America Speaks Out” project that the GOP will use to formulate a priority list of issues and solutions to tackle. Those ideas are likely to form the backbone for a second Contract With America-like document of agenda items that Republicans would act on if they win back control of the House.

“Despite the efforts of House Democrats to deflect attention from their spending binge, the American people have noticed. Taxpayers are keenly aware of the debates here in Congress, and they are looking to House Republicans to lead the fight for job creation, reduced spending, lower taxes and smaller government,” Pence wrote to his 178-member conference.

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