Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday he knows of no Senate Democrats who would support President Bush’s idea of allowing people to invest part of their Social Security contributions in private accounts.
“Do I know of a senator who will support privatization of Social Security? The answer is no. No, I don’t know of a single Democratic senator,” the Nevada Democrat said. “They all agree that there should be no privatization of Social Security. I agree with them.”
Mr. Bush is expected to detail his plan to overhaul Social Security in tonight’s State of the Union speech. At its core is the idea of personal accounts for younger workers, which Democrats have been attacking as an expensive and risky venture that would undermine the system.
Mr. Reid said Senate Democrats are united in opposition to private accounts. Any Social Security plan would require at least 60 votes to pass the Senate, so some Democratic support is needed.
Mr. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said they are willing to talk to Mr. Bush about Social Security.
Democratic leaders have not offered their own plan to safeguard the Social Security system.
The only Democrat so far to endorse the concept of private plans is Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida, who introduced a House bill yesterday along with Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican.
Their bill would maintain the system for anyone 55 or older, but would allow private accounts for younger workers, providing a partial government match for low-income workers who choose the accounts. The bill proposes funding the changes by slowing the rate at which government benefits for Social Security and other programs are increased each year.
A few Democrats are offering alternative plans.
Rep. Dennis Moore, Kansas Democrat, plans to introduce a bill that would ensure the Social Security Trust Fund money is not diverted for other uses.
Mr. Moore said a “true trust fund” is a much better answer than Mr. Bush’s private accounts. Although he opposes Mr. Bush’s plan, “I think its probably better to come up with an alternative rather than just say no” to the president, he said.