Brown joins liberal senators seeking to boost Social Security

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has become the fifth Democratic senator to get behind a push to increase Social Security benefits for seniors, as liberals seek to push back against White House attempts to cut the program. 
 
Brown announced his support Monday for a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to increase retirement benefits. The bill adopts a new inflation calculation to boost benefits by an average $70 per month.
 
Previously Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) had pledged support.
 
The move comes as a new House-Senate budget conference committee has convened to come up with a budget deal by Dec. 13. 
 
While committee leaders Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are aiming for a small deal, President Obama put cuts to Social Security on the table in his last budget, in the context of a larger deal to replace nine years of automatic sequestration cuts to agency budgets.
 
“Social Security is a favorite punching bag in Washington -- anywhere you look, someone is trying to privatize the program or otherwise cut it,” Brown said in a statement sent to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday.
 
Whereas Obama proposed using the chained consumer price index to measure inflation and cut future benefits, the Harkin bill uses CPI for the Elderly (CPI-E) which tends to boost them by giving greater weight to healthcare spending. 
 
The Harkin proposal would pay for the increased benefits by raising the $113,000 cap on income subjected to the Social Security payroll tax. 
 
PCCC co-founder Adam Green said the Brown move gives momentum to the bill which is backed by the AFL-CIO and many of its member unions. 
 
"Senator Brown's endorsement of expanding Social Security benefits is a clear sign that Democrats are ready to go on offense after winning the government shutdown, after years of playing defense,” Green said.