Political paths diverge for Social Security plan | NevadaAppeal.com

Political paths diverge for Social Security plan

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Hope of finding a bipartisan solution to Social Security’s financial problems has diminished, with Senate Republicans planning to write a bill by themselves and Democrats promoting a rally against the private investment accounts that are the centerpiece of President Bush’s plan.

After a hearing next Tuesday, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley plans to begin caucusing with other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee he chairs.

“…That’s where we start working now, aiming to come up with a Republican bill, and hopefully in the process, Democrats see the light and come to the table and tell us what they don’t like about our bill,” he said in an interview Friday.

Grassley noted that “at least publicly there hasn’t been a single Democrat that hasn’t said they won’t sit down and negotiate until private accounts are off the table.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush is pleased that Grassley intends to move forward and that the president will continue to listen to ideas from both parties for reaching “a constructive bipartisan solution.”

A senior Democrat on Grassley’s committee, North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, said the chairman’s go-it-alone approach is unlikely to yield results.

“At this moment, it’s hard to see if they just proceed on a course of pushing the president’s plan, or something close to the president’s plan, how that could ever pass,” Conrad said Friday.

He said the administration’s idea of indexing a retiree’s Social Security checks to average price increases rather than average wage increases during the years they worked would “cut benefits dramatically.”

Opponents of Bush’s plan, including a large number of union employees, planned to hold a rally in a park across the street from the Capitol.

An aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said about 70 Democrats in Congress would attend the rally, being staged by a group called Americans United to Protect Social Security.