Social Security Reform, Redux

Blank US Social Security checks over social card AP / CBS

President Bush encouraged a Republican senator on Tuesday to offer Social Security legislation that would not include private investment accounts. The White House said the president still was committed to allowing workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes.

Mr. Bush's nod to Utah Sen. Bob Bennett's plan comes as public polls show that most Americans do not support the president's handling of the Social Security issue. Congress has been deadlocked on it.

A senior White House official tells CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante that the president has absolutely not dropped his support for private accounts. What he's doing is tossing a bone to Democrats. And if they don't support the bill without private accounts, the White House will slam them as obstructionists, Plante reports.

Bennett said that during a luncheon with other Republican senators at the White House, he told the president of his plans to introduce the bill as early as next week.

"He indicated that I should go forward and do that," Bennett said. "And I'm grateful to have him do that even though his own preference would be to have personal accounts included."

Bennett plans to introduce a bill including an idea the president has already embraced: indexing future benefits so that they would be reduced for middle and upper income workers, while making no cuts in benefits for the bottom thirty percent of earners. The retirement age for full benefits, already increasing gradually to 67 and now scheduled to be phased in by 2022, would be moved forward to 2012.

The White House said the president is encouraging all members of Congress to offer their ideas to make the Social Security system solvent.

"This in no way should be interpreted to mean that the president is backing off of personal accounts," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "He is not."

Since the beginning of his second term, President Bush has been pushing to allow younger workers to create voluntary personal accounts funded out of their Social Security payroll taxes. Democrats accuse the White House of seeking to privatize the Depression-era program and have been unified in opposition to the idea.

"I've decided that the Democrats have made it clear that they will not back personal accounts," Bennett said outside the White House. "And in response to the president's position that 'Let's try to get something done,' I will be proposing a bill that does not include personal accounts."

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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