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Group of Senate Dems seeks to block Social Security reforms that cut benefits

A group of Senate Democrats led by liberal Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhat the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Business groups prepare for lobbying push against minimum wage Schumer: Senate could pave way for reconciliation on COVID relief next week MORE (I-Vt.) is trying to establish procedural protections to guard against cuts to Social Security benefits.
 
But Republicans argue the proposal would make it more difficult to reform Social Security and could result in reduced benefits after 2037.
 

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At least nine senators — Sanders and eight Democrats — have signed a letter seeking co-sponsors for legislation to block changes to Social Security benefits, according to a copy obtained by The Hill.
 
“Our legislation would establish a point of order against any legislation that would reduce Social Security benefits or privatize Social Security,” the lawmakers wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter dated Feb. 28. “The point of order in our legislation could only be waived by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senate and the House present and voting.”
 
Sens. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts MORE (R.I.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownFinancial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief Portman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all Portman won't run for reelection MORE (Ohio), Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiFormer Md. senator Paul Sarbanes dies at 87 Foreign policy congressional committees need to call more women experts Lobbying World MORE (Md.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerTrump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Questions and answers about the Electoral College challenges MORE (Calif.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowWith a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation Yellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing Coronavirus relief deal hinges on talks over Fed lending powers MORE (Mich.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (Alaska) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) also signed the letter.
 
The lawmakers argued the Social Security trust fund “is strong and faces no crisis.”
 
“The Social Security Administration has estimated that Social Security will be able to pay 100 percent of promised benefits to every single eligible recipient for the next 26 years,” they noted. “After that, if nothing is done, there will still be enough funding to pay 78 percent of promised benefits.”
 
Senate Republicans pounced on the claim, accusing Democrats of stubbornly refusing to reform the program at the risk of people under the age of 40.
 
A senior GOP aide said seniors who become eligible for retirement benefits after 37 would see less money if Democrats blocked reform.
 
“American seniors gave 100 percent to build this country, and it’s incredibly disturbing that Democrats would deny them access to what they’ve earned; they’re worth much more than 78 cents on the dollar,” said the aide.
 
Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, disputed the GOP criticism. He said Sanders wants to extend the solvency of Social Security another several decades by raising the cap on income subject to payroll taxes. The payroll tax is capped at $106,800.
 
“Although Social Security will be strong for more than a quarter-century, Congress should strengthen it for the longer term. That is why I agree with the president, who has called for raising the cap on taxable income,” Sanders wrote in a recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
 
“By removing the cap on incomes of $250,000 or more, we can make Social Security fully solvent for generations to come,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE (R-S.C.) made it clear Tuesday that Social Security is still in the mix when it comes to deficit talks. He told reporters he will drop a measure next week to make Social Security solvent after 2037, when it is expected to run short of funds.

Graham also called on President Obama to join with Republicans to forge a bipartisan deal on Social Security. At this point, Graham is seeking a Democratic co-sponsor for the legislation and, according to an aide, is working with a pair of freshman Tea Party-backed senators — Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief MORE of Utah and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Senate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time Trump ex-chief says Senate vote signals impeachment effort 'dead on arrival' MORE of Kentucky — on the issue.

The bill, as it stands, will deal with the retirement age and adjusting benefit levels to make Social Security solvent. The aide said the legislation might include other options but that is still being decided.

— Erik Wasson contributed to this story, which was updated at 10:51 a.m.