OPIOID SERIES:

Reid, Senate Dems oppose Social Security cuts in debt deal

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThrowing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism House Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Congress should build on the momentum from spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.), also signed the letter. Notably, Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHannity, Kimmel, Farrow among Time's '100 Most Influential' The Hill's Morning Report: 200 Days to the Election Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination MORE (D-Ill.), who supported Bowles-Simpson, did not.

The letter was organized by Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report MORE (I-Vt.), Mark BegichMark Peter 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 WhitehouseDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes EPA inspector general to probe Pruitt's use of taxpayer-funded security detail on trips to Disneyland, Rose Bowl game MORE (D-R.I.) and Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenOvernight Cybersecurity: Fallout from Comey memos | IG reportedly investigating memos over classified info | DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign | GOP chair blasts FDIC over data security Why Smokin' Joe leads the pack of 2020 Democratic hopefuls Pawlenty to announce bid for Minnesota governor 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.