Liberals fret over Obama-GOP talks

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Trump's America fights back The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix MORE (I-Vt.) and other liberals in Congress are ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to back away from a proposal to curb the growth of Social Security benefits.

Sanders and other liberals are concerned Obama may strike a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans that would reduce Social Security benefits by adopting a less generous way of adjusting benefits for inflation.

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Obama has previously said he would consider using a formula known as chain-Consumer Price Index that would lower the growth of entitlements by slowing benefit increases for inflation.

Sanders and other liberals are worried Obama will renew that offer in new deficit-reduction talks. Obama had dinner with 12 Senate Republicans Wednesday evening to discuss the path forward on a grand bargain to reduce the deficit, and senators in attendance said entitlements were discussed.

Sanders on Thursday introduced legislation co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) to raise payroll taxes on the wealthy to extend the solvency of Social Security.

Democratic Sens. 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 (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix America has reason to remember its consumer protection tradition when it comes to privacy MORE (Minn.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report GAO to look into Trump's reduction of carbon social costs Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out MORE (R.I.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix Richard Painter puts out 'dumpster fire' in first campaign ad Bill Clinton says 'norms have changed' in society for what 'you can do to somebody against their will' MORE (Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) have co-sponsored the bill as well.

The bill would apply the Social Security payroll tax to all income over $250,000 a year, which Sanders said would ensure Social Security can pay out benefits over the next 50 years.

A senior Democratic aide said Wednesday the outlines of a deal are apparent.

“Social Security is facing an unprecedented attack from those who either want to privatize it completely or who want to make substantial cuts,” said Sanders at a press conference. “The argument being used to cut Social Security is that because we have a significant deficit problem and a $16.6 trillion national debt, we just can’t afford to maintain Social Security benefits.

“This argument is false. Social Security, because it is funded by the payroll tax, not the U.S. Treasury, has not contributed one nickel to our deficit,” he said.

Sanders estimates switching to a chained-CPI formula for determining benefits for Social Security would result in the average 65 year old living on about $15,000 a year receiving $650 less each year when they turn 75 and $1,000 less a year when they turn 85.

Sanders put pressure on Obama not to depart from the promises he made during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he pledged to oppose reductions in benefits.

“The president’s specific campaign proposal was to apply Social Security payroll taxes to all income above $250,000. In other words, the proposal we are introducing today is exactly what the president campaigned on in 2008,” Sanders said.

Reid praised Sanders’s bill in a statement.

“His legislation should make people think twice before assuming that the only way to strengthen Social Security is to take away benefits that seniors have earned, or raise taxes on the middle class,” Reid said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has introduced companion legislation in the House.