Scores of Democrats are calling on President Obama to champion an expansion of Social Security benefits for millions of seniors nationwide.
"As employers continue moving from a defined benefit model to a defined contribution model of retirement savings, it is critical that we fight to protect and expand Social Security — the only guaranteed source of income in retirement," the lawmakers write.
Their campaign coincides with Monday's White House Conference on Aging, a once-in-a-decade event where administration officials will discuss specific policy prescriptions for the nation's seniors.
The Democrats want a Social Security expansion to be "the number one retirement security recommendation" put forth by the White House.
The Democrats cite polls indicating that such an expansion is both necessary — "more than half (53 percent) of today's working Americans are not expected to have sufficient resources upon retirement to maintain their standard of living," they write — and enormously popular.
"This support crosses party lines: 90 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of Republicans favor expanding Social Security," they write.
The letter is spearheaded by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch for in the DNC race Sanders: I have little hope Trump will keep promises Democrats offer double-talk on Veterans Affairs MORE (I-Vt.), ranking member of the Budget Committee and a 2016 presidential contender, and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). They join Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit Trump’s Treasury pick leaves Sears board: report Reeling Dems look for new leader MORE (D-Mass.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit Fight over 'Buy America' provision erupts in Congress Trump’s economic team taking shape MORE (D-Ohio) and 68 House Democrats in endorsing the letter.
Senior advocates are also joining the fight. A host of liberal groups plan to deliver a petition — 2 million signatures long — to the White House conference on Monday echoing the lawmakers' push for a Social Security expansion. The sponsoring groups include the AFL-CIO, the Campaign for America's Future, the National Organization for Women and Social Security Works.
Social Security has divided Obama and his liberal allies on Capitol Hill. The president infuriated many Democrats in 2013 when he unveiled a 2014 budget package that would calculate future cost-of-living increases in Social Security using the chained consumer price index (CPI), which would reduce benefits over time.
The move was largely political: Obama had included the provision as an olive branch to Republicans, who have long championed benefit cuts under Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of reducing spending and shrinking government. But the provision did nothing to bring GOP leaders to the budget negotiating table.
Although Obama had emphasized that he would consider the chained-CPI provision only as part of a package deal that included tax hikes, many liberal Democrats were nonetheless outraged that he would open the door to cutting seniors benefits.
Sanders on Sunday, while describing Obama as a friend, said the president made a mistake in thinking Republicans were willing partners in legislative compromise.
"What he did after the election is what he said to the millions of people who were so excited about his campaign, he says, 'Hey, thank you very much for electing me; I will take it from here. I'll sit down with John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbying World 'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run News Flash: Trump was never going to lock Clinton up MORE. I will sit down with Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma MORE. I'll sit down with Republicans and I'm going to negotiate some fair compromises,'" Sanders said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program.
"The truth is Republicans never wanted to negotiate. All they wanted to do was obstruct."