Bush Takes SS Pitch To S.C.

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President Bush on Monday made a fresh pitch for his Social Security overhaul in this Republican-friendly state, yet a Republican congressman made clear that Mr. Bush still faces resistance within his own party.

While the president still hasn't offered a specific plan to strengthen the nation's retirement benefit system, he encouraged more lawmakers to offer their ideas as South Carolina's two Republican senators have.

"These men have been leaders in the debate," Mr. Bush said. "They've stepped up and said, 'Here are some ideas I want you to consider."'

Mr. Bush wants to allow younger workers to divert some of their Social Security tax contributions into private accounts invested in stocks and bonds, but some Republicans have been slow to embrace the idea. Democrats say they are united in opposing a plan they contend would break a social contract by shifting Social Security from a government-guaranteed benefit to a personal investment subject to the risks of the market.

Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., said during an editorial board meeting with the (Rochester) Post-Bulletin that the president must overcome a "credibility problem" to revamp Social Security.

The congressman said many people think the administration underestimated the cost of the Iraqi war, then overestimated the benefits of Medicare's prescription drug plan.

"And now, all the sudden, they wonder why people are a bit skeptical of their ... plan on Social Security," he said. "It's partly a credibility problem."

Gutknecht also rejected the Bush contention that Social Security is in "crisis."

"If I use the word 'bankrupt,' you know, kick me, because I don't think that's a fair term to say about Social Security," the congressman told the newspaper. "It is not in crisis today. I don't use the word 'crisis."'