Democrats to Fiscal Commission: Don't Touch Social Security

President Barack Obama stands with the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles, second from right, and Alan Simpson, right, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010.
AP
President Barack Obama stands with the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles, second from right, and Alan Simpson, right, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010.
AP

A group of Democrats today pressed President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission, which is will be putting fourth recommendations on December 1st to reduce the deficit, not to include any cuts to Social Security when they do.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform "should keep their paws off" Social Security, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said on a phone call with reporters, calling for "no benefit cuts, no raising the retirement age, no privatization."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said explicitly that the purpose of the call was to warn the commission not to include recommendations to cut Social Security. "If you do we'll vote it down, and do everything we can to see it defeated," he said.

Sanders and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have introduced a resolution to express Senate opposition to Social Security cuts, which has 12 cosponsors. More than 100 lawmakers have also signed a letter to be sent to Mr. Obama opposing such cuts.

Liberals fear that the commission will recommend cuts to Social Security in part because of co-chair Alan Simpson's suggestion that the program is "a milk cow with 310 million tits." The National Organization for Women (NOW) delivered 1,500 baby bottle tops (meant to represent the "tits") to Simpson yesterday as part of their push to have him removed from the commission.

For the commission's recommendations to go forward, they must be agreed on by 14 out of 18 commissioners, at which point Congress can move to consider them. (House leaders have vowed to do so.) The commission is charged with reducing the deficit to three percent of the economy by 2015.

Sanders pointed to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the program can pay full benefits through 2039 if Congress does nothing, and can continue to pay reduced benefits afterward.

Brown said that while raising the retirement age may not seem like a big deal to white collar workers, it would be devastating for people who work on their feet, such as a waitress or a carpenter. The current retirement age is 67, and House Minority Leader John Boehner has raised the possibility of raising it to 70. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn have also invoked the possibility of raising the retirement age.

On the press call, opponents of changes to Social Security repeatedly referenced President Bush's failed efforts to privatize the program during his presidency.

Gerald McEntee, International President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, warned the commission to "keep your hands of Social Security - it remains the third rail in American politics."


Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.