By Mark H. Rodeffer - 02/03/05 12:00 AM EST
President Bush invited seven Democratic senators to join him as he stumps for Social Security reform in their home states today and Friday, but most have declined the offer.
Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will accompany Bush when he visits their home states this week. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) declined the invitation.
To get his Social Security plan through the Senate, Bush will need support from some Democrats. In his 2004 and 2000 presidential campaigns, Bush won the five states he is visiting today and tomorrow. Picking off Democratic senators in red states would likely be the easiest way for Bush to gain enough Democratic votes for his plan.
David DiMartino, a spokesman for Ben Nelson, said the senator is “listening for the details of the president’s plan” and hoping that in Nebraska Bush offers “more details so we can get down to a debate on how best to proceed.”
Baucus will appear on stage with Bush to welcome him to Montana, said spokesman Barrett Kaiser, but Baucus nonetheless “does not support privatizing Social Security.”
Conrad accepted Bush’s offer but said in a statement that he does not support the “massive new borrowing” and “cutting benefits by 40 percent” that Bush’s plan would entail.
Dorgan issued a statement saying he declined the invitation so that he could stay in Washington for a possible confirmation vote on Alberto Gonzales’s nomination as attorney general and to host a Democratic Policy Committee luncheon.
Spokespeople for Lincoln, Pryor and Bill Nelson cited scheduling conflicts as the reason they are not attending, but none could specify the conflict.
Also invited to the events with Bush were GOP Sens. Conrad Burns (Mont.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.).
Bush will visit Fargo, N.D., and Great Falls, Mont., today and continue Friday to Omaha, Neb.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Tampa, Fla.