The clock is ticking on Bush's SS reform

Via Steve Gilliard I found yet another article spelling doom for Bush’s Social Security plan. This article has a couple of nice bits I haven’t seen in the other doom-spelling articles. But it also made me realize something important about the timing of this.

Social Security almost certainly isn’t going to happen this year.

But with just 49 legislative days left before Congress’splanned adjournment, the odds are still against Bush securing thecenterpiece of his domestic agenda, Republican lawmakers concede.

"I don’t know if we can get it donethis year," said Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), a member of the Waysand Means Committee. "I don’t think you could get a third of theCongress to vote for any one plan at this point."

Which means they’re going to have to try to pitch it again next year. And aside from being an election year, there’s another reason why it’s going to be a lot harder to sell this stinky fish next year: Bush’s Prescription Drug Plan will be coming online, demonstrating to millions of seniors that Bush doesn’t have their best interests in mind.

  1. emptywheel says:

    I’m particularly fascinated by the role of Snowe in this. I’ve suspected the rise of the moderates may also turn into a revolt of the Committee leadership against Bush’s dictating what they do with their committees. Snowe is herself a committee chair, and here she’s being depicted as the decisive vote into whether the Gang of 14 can rule the show or whether the Finance Committee (and, by extension, committees in general) retains its traditional role.

    But then, I can’t imagine Fristie’s theatened attempt to use parliamentary maneuvers to bypass Finance is going to be popular, given recent events.

  2. DemFromCT says:

    I am one of the AARP joiners, who joined to prevent another GOP sellout.

    And how can Snowe promise to stay on board while Frist bypasses the committee? The moment Frist bypasses the committee, she’s a free agent.

    Headaches and more headaches for Fristie, who is out of his league. Still.

  3. Mimikatz says:

    Everyone knows there is a pretty obvious deal to be made on Social Security once private accounts are firmly off the table–raising the wage cap in stages and very slowly raising the age at which full benefits can be claimed, which will have the effect of slowly lowering the percentage of benefits that beneficiaries get if they retire early. It is not necessary to cut benefits except by slowly increasing the age of full benefits, unless one is adamantly against any tax increases. This assumes, of course, that private accounts would ever be taken off the table.

    But the folks who are going to face the FICA tax increase are the same folks who will be hit by the AMT in 2006 unless something is done. And that gets us back to the issue of Bush’s tax cuts and the damage to be done by making them permanent, especially the top rate and the estate tax repeal.

    So all of a sudden it isn’t simple anymore. This is the problem for people like Lindsay Graham. When he tries to sweeten the pot for one group, like adding significant add-on tax free accounts, especially with subsidies for those at the bottom of the scale, it exacerbates all the tax issues. Bill Thomas understands all the issues, but it is hard to see a compromise he could pull off either.

    And, of course, there really is no need to â€fix†Social Security. The real need is to fix Medicare and health care generally, and get a grip on the revenue side. If the economic assumptions indicate there is still a problem in 3-4 years, there is plenty of time to deal with it. This is one time that inertia works in our favor.

  4. emptywheel says:


    I think the idea is she refuses to be a part of a deal made by bypassing the committee. It’d be hard to enforce, certainly. But since she’s been so outspoken on opposing Bush’s bamboozle, it won’t be hard for her to hold up her end of the bargain.

    Then again, I’m not sure that one Gang of 14 is enough to push a consensus, and if it is, then Snowe’s non-participation might not make a difference.

  5. RonK, Seattle says:

    emptywheel — Seniors like that will never get on stage with the President, will they?

    Mimikatz — Good read. Graham may think he’s going to pull a rabbit (or a camel, or a platypus, or something) out of the hat. May be nothing in that hat but spiders and snakes.

  6. emptywheel says:

    I’m fairly certain my mom will never be ALLOWED on the stage with the President because I’m sure Ratzinger has done a search of all the Church employees who support the lefty touchy feely Catholic groups in this country and sent the list to Bush for immediate persecution.

    But other than her support for lefty Catholic groups, my mom DOES look like the kind of person who’d be up next to Bush. So there’s got to be someone without the Ratzinger file who will turn at an appropriate time.

  7. al-Fubar says:

    Continuing vigilance is needed, of course, but Social Security deform seems like a nonstarter at this point.

    Lindsey Graham was talking out of his ass (and probably knew it). Moderate Republicans – let alone Dems – are not going to sign up to a deal that keeps carve-out private accounts, and hardcore conservatives are not going to accept one that *doesn’t* have them. And whatever happens with judicial nominations, it is hardly going to be conducive to a â€compromise†surrender on Social Security.

    Needless to say, if it doesn’t happen this year, it is certainly not going to happen next year, with an election looming. Even conservative GOPers have shown themselves none too eager to join hands and leap into the abyss without Dems to provide human shields. (Yeah, I’m mixing metaphors – sosumi.)

    – Rick Robinso

  8. praktike says:

    It strikes me that if committee chairs are making a power grab at Frist’s expense, the Gang of 14 won’t be able to work up some kind of SS bill without their acquiesence, even though there’s some overlap between the two groups. Grassley heads the Finance Committee, and he’s not one of the Seven. And the chair of the subcommittee that handles SS is … Santorum, who has been noticeably skittish about SS reform even though he’s officially committed to it. Bob Casey, Jr. will eat him alive on that issue, and he has to be aware of that. PA is one of the oldest states in the country.

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