Bush’s Social Security overhaul may not come up before he leaves office, lawmaker says | VailDaily.com

Bush’s Social Security overhaul may not come up before he leaves office, lawmaker says

WASHINGTON – President Bush’s chief domestic priority for his second term, overhauling Social Security, probably won’t come up again in Congress until 2009 – after Bush has left office – the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday.Iowa Republican Charles Grassley told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he’s “very pessimistic” that lawmakers can act any sooner.”When you get into an election year, then you’re in the presidential election cycle, I’m pessimistic that it could come up before 2009,” he said. “Doesn’t mean that I won’t try to bring it up before 2009.”The White House said the president doesn’t see upcoming elections as an obstacle and intends to keep pushing for plans that he outlined in his State of the Union speech. Bush wanted lawmakers to establish personal accounts and shore up the program’s financial health.”The president said he’s going to continue focusing on Social Security because, as we all know, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes,” said spokesman Trent Duffy.Bush began his second term pledging to spend the political capital won in re-election to promote fundamental changes in Social Security. He traveled across the country trying to build support, even visiting the Parkersburg, W.Va., filing cabinets that store government IOUs that are supposed to finance future retirement needs.Grassley said Bush entered his second term with “somewhat of a mandate” to address the Social Security because Bush had campaigned on the issue. But Republican lawmakers, facing united opposition from Democrats, struggled to build support for the president’s personal accounts.Grassley held 15 sessions with fellow Republicans on the Finance Committee but couldn’t find common ground even in that group. “I can’t even get a consensus among Republicans,” he said.Bush acknowledged last month that Congress has little appetite for taking on the issue this year.”I did make some progress convincing the American people there was a problem,” Bush said. “And I’m going to continue talking about the problem because I strongly believe that the role of those of us in Washington, one role, is to confront problems.”Lawmakers should feel a sense of urgency to address the program’s long-term financial health and not get bogged down by upcoming elections, said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security.”I think that it is possible for us to pass Social Security reform either next year or the year after, simply because the problem is not going away,” McCrery said. “I think both Democrats and Republicans recognize that this problem is not going away.”Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for a group that led the opposition to Bush’s plan, said this year’s stalemate shows the president’s proposed accounts are “dead as a doornail for the foreseeable future.”It may, indeed, take until 2009 to re-engage in the debate over the program’s financial health, said Woodhouse, of Americans United to Protect Social Security.Derrick Max, executive director of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, called Grassley’s prognosis “overly pessimistic.” His group is a coalition of businesses that want to see the proposed private accounts enacted.”I still think there’s a chance early next year,” he said.But if the issue turns against Republicans and others who want to restructure the program in upcoming elections, Max said, it could be a long time before lawmakers take up the topic again.—On the Net:Senate Finance Committee: http://finance.senate.gov/Vail, Colorado

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