Saturday, March 19, 2005

Republican Senators Sheepish to Face Constituents about Social Security

Republican members of Congress, heading home for a two-week Easter recess, are timidly taking new avenues to attempt to sell the President's Social Security privatization ideas.

The Bush Administration now openly admits that privatization does nothing to solve Social Security's long-term funding challenges, yet Mr. Bush is stubbornly uninterested in solutions that exclude his version of private accounts.

Remember...there is no crisis in Social Security. Even the President has dropped the word crisis.
From Common Dreams....GOP Boards Up the 'Town Hall' by Andrea Stone

Republicans in Congress have a game plan to avoid "March madness" when they go home this weekend to talk to constituents about Social Security during a two-week holiday recess.

Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio and other GOP leaders are urging lawmakers to hold lower-profile events this time.

Republicans plan to heed President Bush's call Wednesday "to talk to their constituents not only about the problem, but about solutions" to Social Security's looming financial shortfall. The president wants to allow workers to divert some payroll taxes into private investment accounts.

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted late last month found that only 35% approve of Bush's handling of the issue. Yet the importance of debate on the matter was reinforced by a separate Gallup Poll on Wednesday, in which nearly one in four adults said Social Security will be the most important problem facing the nation in 25 years. That's more than double the number who said so a year ago.

This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Republican leaders are urging their party's lawmakers to take the spotlight off themselves by convening panels of experts from the Social Security Administration, conservative think tanks, local colleges and like-minded interest groups to answer questions about the federal retirement program.

The shift in venues and formats, Santorum says, is aimed at producing "more of an erudite discussion" about Social Security's problems and possible solutions. Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month.

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