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Reid takes Social Security off the table

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will not allow changes in Social Security to be part of the negotiations to avoid a federal budget fiscal cliff, further narrowing the opportunities for savings that could be tapped to close the deficit.

Republicans have insisted that big entitlement programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid be part of the end-of-year negotiations to head off tax-rate increases and the $110 billion in automatic spending cuts.

But Mr. Reid said Democrats have already made changes to Medicare as part of President Obama’s health law, and said Social Security is solvent for the time being and shouldn’t be tapped to pay for other government needs.

“Social Security is not part of the problem, That’s one of the myths the Republicans have tried to create,” he said. “Social Security is sound for the next many years. But we want to make sure that in the outer years people are protected also, but it’s not going to be part of the budget talks, as far as I’m concerned.”

On Medicare, the Nevada Democrat said he wouldn’t talk about specific negotiations, but he said his focus going into talks will be raising taxes on the rich.

“I’m giving you my personal feelings about where we need to go. Take care of the middle class and have the richest of the rich contribute a little bit to helping our economy,” he said.

On Tuesday, opening the lame-duck session of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP is willing to strike a deal that would involve the government collecting more money — but only if Democrats are willing to see limits to entitlement spending.

“Republicans like me have said for more than a year now that we’re open to new revenue in exchange for meaningful reforms to the entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our debt, so that we can reduce the deficit, protect these programs for today’s seniors, and strengthen them for future generations,” he said.

On Wednesday the AARP released the results of a poll it took after last week’s elections that it said showed most Americans 50 years of age and older don’t want to see Social Security or Medicare included in the lame-duck negotiations.

AARP officials, which who represent the nation’s largest organization for the elderly, said their members want to keep promised benefits, and do not want those to be cut as part of a deficit deal.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said changes to Social Security and Medicare shouldn’t be beholden to budget constraints.

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