Liberals fret over Obama-GOP talks

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWeek ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny This week: Government funding deadline looms Week ahead: Cures bill nears finish line 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 ReidCommunities struggling with decline of coal can’t wait any longer on RECLAIM Act Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny This week: Government funding deadline looms MORE (D-Nev.) to raise payroll taxes on the wealthy to extend the solvency of Social Security.

Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrucking riders ‘in the mix’ for short-term spending bill Lawmakers praise defense bill's National Guard bonus fix Schumer’s elevation to leader spells trouble for Democrats MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's 12:30 Report GOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator: Kate McKinnon told me to ‘stay strong’ after Trump win MORE (Minn.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator backing Sessions for attorney general Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination MORE (R.I.), Al FrankenAl FrankenDems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule GOP wants to move fast on Sessions Overnight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers pushing for vote to delay warrant rule changes MORE (Minn.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalTrump gets chance to remake the courts Wrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration Obama will sign Iran sanctions bill passed by Senate MORE (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.