- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

House Democrats will hold their 1,000th Social Security town-hall meeting today, and are using the milestone to argue that their party is winning the debate and that the public opposes Republicans’ idea of private accounts.

“House Democrats’ energy on Social Security is a testament to our strong belief that the American people do not want privatization,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said as he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California announced the meeting, which will be in Jamestown, N.Y.

Republicans, however, said they have held more than 1,150 meetings on Social Security reform and that Democrats have refused to negotiate any solution to the system’s long-term solvency problem.

“We all know that Nancy Pelosi and her band of obstructionists have done everything in their power to prevent Democrats from joining bipartisan discussions regarding Social Security,” said Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.

Democrats have refused to negotiate until Republicans drop their proposal to allow Americans to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in personal accounts. Democrats have tried to convince the public that this plan would be risky and would harm the Social Security system.

“For 70 years, Social Security has never failed to pay promised benefits, and Democrats will fight to make sure that Republicans do not turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Democrats say they are open to negotiating long-term solvency, but are standing firm against personal accounts.

The House is expected to vote on Social Security legislation this fall, but action is less certain in the Senate.

In anticipation of House action, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate are pressuring lawmakers while they are in their home districts this month.

Americans United to Protect Social Security, which opposes personal accounts, will continue its campaign against 60 to 70 lawmakers, and will begin an effort to persuade state and local lawmakers to oppose personal accounts.

Americans United spokesman Brad Woodhouse has warned that lawmakers trying to avoid the issue while on August recess “are in for a rude, rude awakening.”

Compass, a coalition of top business groups that favor change, has been pressuring members of the Democratic Leadership Council who signed a document in August 2000 laying out their principles, including structural reform to Social Security. The document was signed by 73 Democrats.

“It’s time for Democrats to live up to their pledge,” said Derrick Max, executive director of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America’s Social Security.

Both sides of the debate plan to use the 70th anniversary of Social Security on Aug. 14 to drive home their messages.

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