Senate Democrats “want to put the Social Security trust fund in a lockbox and insulate it from a broader budget-cutting package designed to reduce the national deficit,” The Hill reports.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who is at the center of bipartisan talks, said he wants to prolong the solvency of Social Security to 75 years. Under its current setup, the program is projected to pay 100 percent of benefits for the next 26 years.
But Conrad does not want Social Security to be part of a broader proposal to reduce the $1.6 trillion federal deficit.
“It might be useful to have Social Security treated on a separate track because it is not part of the deficit reduction package,” Conrad told The Hill before the Presidents Day recess. “I think it should be separated.”
“There are many who recognize we have a long-term challenge with Social Security but that’s very separate from the deficit reduction,” Conrad said. “When those two get put together, it creates huge problems to getting the deficit reduction done because it confuses the issue.”
Conrad says lawmakers “should look instead to reducing projected costs in other entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.”
This is an area of “potential disagreement with Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is meeting regularly with Conrad and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to put together a deficit reduction plan.”
Coburn warns that if Social Security reform is not part of the package, Congress won’t address it for years.
“Nothing will ever happen if we do it that way,” Coburn said of the prospect of separating Social Security from a deficit reduction package.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), founder of the Senate Social Security Caucus, says he thinks “there is growing sentiment within the Democratic caucus to make sure that Social Security is not dealt with within the context of deficit reduction.”