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Analysis: Sen. Warner Proposes Decoupling Social Security From Deficit Reduction

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As lawmakers on Capitol Hill move toward negotiations on federal spending cuts and expiration on tax cuts, one big question is the possibility of entitlement reform. Today, a social security policy idea from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) received some attention. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin endorsed the idea, saying entitlement reform should not be included in a debt reduction deal. Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper, has more on this development.

What is Sen. Warner proposing?

"He's proposing setting up a commission that meets every 10 years to take a look at Social Security. He says it's not going to be as formal as the Simpson-Bowles commission or the deficit reduction commission that President Obama put together. Rather, it's going to be a collection of wise men and women, as he terms it. People who will take a look at Social Security every 10 years to see whether it can be solvent for the next 75 years... if this group met and determined that 75-year solvency would not be achievable, then they would propose some reforms to achieve that benchmark."

How likely is it that Social Security will be included in debt reduction talks?

"Warner's idea is gaining some attention now because there is no interest on the Democratic side in implementing Social Security reforms before the end of this year or as part of the deficit reduction talks next year. What Harry Reid has said for months now is that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, so it should not be part of broader deficit reduction talks. The drivers of the debt are, he argues, Medicare and defense spending and the low tax rate. And now President Obama has joined Harry Reid... So in the absence of any work on Social Security in the next few weeks, Warner's idea is gaining some currency.

How do Republicans approach the topic of Social Security?

Republicans say that Social Security needs to be addressed now. Mitch McConnell said that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid all need to be addressed now as part of a deficit reduction deal. They say that if they agree to raise taxes, there needs to be meaningful entitlement reform and they would like to see Social Security included.

How much support do you think the idea from Warner will gather?

"It got a shout-out from Dick Durbin today, who gave a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It also gained some support in the Gang of Six... This is one of the ideas that was found to be popular in that group.


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