The Washington Times - March 25, 2013, 12:48PM

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on President Obama Monday not to change the way Social Security benefits are calculated as part of the White House’s attempt to reach a “grand bargain” on the budget with congressional Republicans.

Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, pointed to the Senate’s support for a budget amendment that opposes a switch to the so-called “chained consumer price index” — also known as “chained CPI” — that would trim cost-of-living changes by altering the way inflation is measured in calculating Social Security checks to elderly retirees.

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The amendment passed by a simple voice-vote during the Senate’s marathon “vote-a-rama” session that concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“This is a strong signal that when push comes to shove the Senate is going to oppose any effort to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, disabled veterans and their survivors,” Sanders said.

Mr. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and founded the Defending Social Security Caucus, said adoption of the chained CPI formula would effectively reduce Social Security benefits for 55 million Americans and more than 3.2 million disabled veterans receiving disability compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congressional Republicans have indicated that reform to entitlement programs is a prerequisite for any compromise over the nation’s debt-reduction efforts, and Mr. Obama has said he is willing to take on fellow Democrats in seeking such reforms.