House Members Spar Over Role of Social Security in Debt Ceiling Negotiation

By Eliza

Jul 8, 2011 12:11pm

ABC News’ Arlette Saenz (@arlettesaenz) reports:

In a hearing addressing the long term solvency of Social Security, members of a House Ways and Means subcommittee battled over whether or not reforms to Social Security will help alleviate the deficit crisis.  Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., defended Social Security, saying it has played no role in the mounting federal debt.

“Social Security has never contributed a dime to the nations $14.3 trillion debt, not a penny to our federal deficit or any year of our nation’s history, yet some in this town insist that we should cut Social Security benefits for seniors to pay for these deficits, deficits run up over the last 10 years principally as a consequence of fighting two unpaid for wars and giving unpaid for tax cuts to millionaires,” Becerra said.  “Most Americans would say it is immoral and un-American for this Congress to tax Peter to pay for Paul’s sins, to make retirees, widows, disabled workers and children who rely on Social Security pay for the Bush debt.  How can that be right?”

Republican congress members countered Becerra’s argument, saying the president and public have recognized Social Security is a problem which needs to be addressed.

“We have a lot of attention today because I think the president has recognized this as an issue that should be talked about, should be debated.  Everybody I’ve talked to back in North Dakota is concerned about Social Security, and I think  it’s been used as a political football by different people, different interests all along,” Rep. Rick Berg, R-ND, said.  “Why are we in this debt crisis right now today? We’re in it because we’ve got 14.3 trillion in debt ,and we don’t have any more money.”

“Social Security needs cash, and I don’t know where Treasury gets the cash to redeem the bonds.  In times of this deficit, Treasury has to borrow it. Today the U.S. borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends, much of it from the Chinese and sends the bill to our children and grandchildren, and part of that’s to cover social security,” Rep. Sam Johnson, R- Texas, said.

“I appreciate the chairman’s continuation on this subject, and I look forward to working with him and our ranking member here when he realizes we’ve got a problem and tries to help us fix it,” Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., said.

Panelists before the subcommittee presented suggestions to reform Social Security, from raising the retirement age to restricting growth in benefits after a certain age.

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