Monday :: Feb 28, 2005

Republican Disunity on Social Security?

by rayman

I know most of us are becoming increasingly apoplectic at the prospect of Holy Joe selling us out on Social Security, as Josh Marshall informs us that

every sign I see tells me that Sen. Lieberman is looking to cut a deal of some sort with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina and thus with the White House. It would be a kinder, gentler phase-out. But phase-out just the same.

Although it's certainly essential to put the heat on Lieberman, one thing that's often lost is that Republicans are also divided about Social Security. You have the "free lunch" crowd, like CATO, and then you have people like Lindsey Graham, who actually maintain a smidgen of sanity regarding the costs of privatization. Thus, even if Lieberman is working on a deal with Graham, I wouldn't automatically assume, as Josh does, that this would be on the same page as the White House. Indeed, this brief article in today's New York Times further highlights how disorganized the Republicans are in this fight:
At the same time, some leading Republicans, including Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate and chairman of its subcommittee on Social Security, have dismissed Mr. Shaw's plan. "That would certainly not meet my desire," Mr. Santorum said Sunday on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "I don't think it solves the problem."

In a measure of how polarized Capitol Hill has become on this issue, Mr. Shaw said he planned to meet with some Democratic senators, but he declined to name them. In the House, he said of Democrats: "They're just dug in to say no. There's nobody really to talk to on the House side."

Democrats, fortified by a week at the grass roots, where many found strong opposition to the president's plan, seem unlikely to return in a mood to give ground. "As long as privatization with its massive borrowing is on the table, there's not going to be a bipartisan compromise," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Finance Committee, which will deal with Social Security.

An article in The Washington Post on Sunday suggested that the Republicans were ready to deal on Social Security, but spokesmen for party leaders said it was still early in the legislative process. "We need to keep talking to the American people about what our ideas are," said Dan Allen, spokesman for the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas. "We have a ways to go before we sit down and start writing legislation."

This last paragraph further suggests that neither Shaw nor Graham are working in lockstep with the White House. Of course, to a certain extent, this is all a moot point, as any "compromise" would be disfigured in the conference committee, as Brad Delong points out. But it's important to keep in mind that there still doesn't appear to be a unified Republican approach toward Social Security (that is, between the White House, Senate, and the House), which is very telling.

rayman :: 10:38 AM :: Comments (20) :: Digg It!