Reid, Senate Dems oppose Social Security cuts in debt deal

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems face identity crisis Heller under siege, even before healthcare Charles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales MORE (D-Nev.) and 28 other members of the 53-member Senate Democratic caucus have signed a letter opposing any cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.

The letter forms a significant marker as Congress looks toward a possible deficit bargain in the lame-duck session after the election. It says Social Security has problems down the road, but that they should be dealt with separately from any budget deal.

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Cuts to Social Security and other entitlements are seen as key to getting the bipartisan cooperation of Republicans in any deal, just as revenue increases are key for Democrats.

The Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan produced by President Obama's deficit commission contained Social Security cuts, including a change in the way inflation is calculated and an increase in the retirement age.

The letter could reduce the chances for a long-term, multi-trillion-dollar deal soon. Congress will need to put some kind of deal in place before January to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of indiscriminate spending cuts and tax increases.

The Senate's number three Democrat, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTougher Russia sanctions bill facing another setback Trump claims GOP has a 'big surprise' on healthcare Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (D-N.Y.), also signed the letter. Notably, Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinGraham gets frustrated in public ‘unmasking’ debate Senate Dems set principles for potential budget negotiation Dem senator: GOP's healthcare approach will 'devastate Medicaid' MORE (D-Ill.), who supported Bowles-Simpson, did not.

The letter was organized by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Alexandra Pelosi documentary brings together GOP, Dem members Sanders: FBI inquiry of wife is 'pathetic' attack Why UK millennials voting for socialism could happen here, too MORE (I-Vt.), Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGraham gets frustrated in public ‘unmasking’ debate Senate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting MORE (D-R.I.) and Al FrankenAl FrankenOvernight Energy: EPA moves to repeal Obama water rule GOP senator calls for tight scrutiny on AT&T's proposed Time Warner merger Howard Stern: I have a 'man crush' on Al Franken MORE (D-Minn.).

"To be sure, Social Security has its own long-term challenges that will need to be addressed in the decades ahead. But the budget and Social Security are separate, and should be considered separately," the letter states.

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The letter was hailed by some groups representing senior citizens.

“Unlike Governor Mitt Romney, the senators who signed this letter understand that Social Security is earned through hard work and contributions; it is not a government handout," said Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works.