Schumer steps up Social Security assault on House Republicans

Schumer steps up Social Security assault on House Republicans

Senate Democrats led by Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersClinton backs Georgia governor hopeful on eve of primary The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ Bernie Sanders announces Senate reelection bid MORE (I-Vt.) are gearing up for a battle with House Republicans over Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Schumer and other Democratic strategists see Medicare and Social Security as winning political issues that can help them regain the momentum they lost over the last two years.

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Schumer, who has taken over the Senate Democrats' communications operation, delivered some of his most direct shots at House GOP leaders.

“They want to privatize Social Security,” Schumer said of Republicans. “Privatize equals end — no more.”

Senate Democrats have unified over the issue after President Obama stayed away from proposing a cut in Social Security benefits at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Democratic pollsters warned that if Obama called for raising the retirement age, it would create a schism in the party.

House Republicans have discussed advancing a proposal to privatize Medicare in the budget plan they expect to unveil in the next few weeks.

House GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) said Wednesday that many Republicans would support a proposal floated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Feehery: An opening to repair our broken immigration system GOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill MORE (R-Wis.) to convert Medicare into a voucher system in which beneficiaries would receive $11,000 on average to buy certified plans.

Ryan has also called for letting workers under the age of 55 invest a third of their Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts.

Mike Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Ohio), has pointed out that Obama has also signaled support for Social Security reform.

“President Obama and Republicans agree on the need to reform Social Security to protect benefits for future generations,” he said. “It seems like some of the president’s Democratic allies on Capitol Hill haven’t gotten the memo from the White House.”

On Tuesday, Obama told Congress: “We should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

The president said Thursday the solution should not slash benefits for future generations or subject benefits “to the whims of the stock market.”

Sanders said he would like to hear a stronger pledge from Obama.

“Jeb Hensarling of Texas said — and he’s the Republican Conference chairman — that they’re going to take Paul Ryan’s blueprint and use it,” said Schumer. “That’s privatizing Medicare. ... They’re going to do the same for Social Security.

“Their agenda: Privatize both programs, which means end them,” said Schumer.

Schumer, Sanders and several other Democrats have formed the Senate Social Security Caucus, which held its first meeting Thursday.

The meeting came a day after the Congressional Budget Office reported that Social Security would begin running deficits this year. The trust fund is projected to take in $130 billion less in payroll taxes than it will pay out in benefits.

Most of that deficit is due to a one-year payroll tax break that President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last year, which knocked the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011.

Democrats note, however, that Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus that will increase to more than $4 trillion by 2039.

But Democrats also acknowledge that the trust fund will no longer be able to pay out 100 percent of benefits beginning in 2039.

Influential Republican senators have proposed raising the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 69, using a formula that Congress agreed to in the 1980s.

“We know what to do on Social Security. I put on the table [a proposal] adjusting the age from 67 to 69,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Graham: Trump will 'end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland' in his first term Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting MORE (R-S.C.) said Wednesday. “I don’t know how in the heck we save this country from bankruptcy if we don’t reform entitlements.

“Why can’t we do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did?” Graham said in reference to the former Republican president and Democratic House Speaker.

Sanders accused Republicans of hyping the fiscal instability of the program, and the media of swallowing their spin.

“If it’s raining tomorrow, therefore Social Security is in trouble. What’s the surplus for Social Security?” he said.

Sanders said the trust fund is similar to businesses that take out loans from time to time to cover short-term costs but are fiscally sound over the long term.

The other members of the Social Security Caucus are Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Senate Dems call for probe into why Trump has not issued Russia sanctions MORE (D-Ohio), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems expand 2018 message to ‘draining the swamp’ Overnight Energy: Pruitt gets Senate grilling | Dems want investigation into Pruitt's security chief | Interior officers arrested 13 in border surge | Advisers pan science 'transparency' plan Dems claim Pruitt's former security chief intervened to hire business associate MORE (D-R.I.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThis week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary MORE (Mich.).

The lawmakers met at the same time that the Senate Tea Party Caucus held its first public meeting in the Senate Hart Office Building.

A fourth Republican senator, Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP senator’s defense of Tester counters Trump attacks GOP more confident about W. Va. Senate as Blankenship fades MORE (Kan.), joined the caucus, which also includes Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ Kentucky Dems look to vault themselves in deep-red district Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Doug Jones to oppose Haspel as CIA chief MORE (R-Utah). A fifth GOP senator, Pat Toomey (Pa.), sat in on the meeting.

Democrats say the growing influence of the Tea Party in Congress poses a threat to entitlement programs.

“The fact that five senators are for privatizing Social Security shows we’re not crying wolf here,” Schumer said. “This is a serious movement to undo the most successful government program of the 20th century.”

Brown said: “If they have five senators already in the first month of January, it’s likely going to be a major thrust of the Republican effort.”