- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Opponents of President Bush’s proposed Social Security reforms are trying to force key House and Senate members to say whether they support Mr. Bush’s ideas, in an effort to derail his proposal and prevent consensus from forming in its favor.

The move comes as key Republicans push ahead, discussing Mr. Bush’s ideas as well as others’ proposals, in an attempt to find agreement and craft legislation. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to examine various options.

Americans United to Protect Social Security — a coalition of 200 groups opposing the reform — has begun an aggressive monthlong campaign targeting 80 to 90 Republicans and Democrats, with special focus on members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

The coalition is telling each member to hold a town-hall meeting during Memorial Day recess to clearly state his or her position on Mr. Bush’s proposal. If members decline, they could face phone calls, letters, advertisements, press events and picketing.

The goal, coalition members said, is to expose the lack of support in Congress for Mr. Bush’s plan to create personal retirement accounts using part of the Social Security payroll tax and to slow the scheduled growth in benefits for the middle and upper class.

?The president’s plan is on the table, and members of Congress should have the guts to say, ‘yes or no,’? said Brad Woodhouse, coalition spokesman. ?We don’t believe there’s popular support for his plan, and we don’t believe there’s support in Congress.?

Most targets are Republicans, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and committee members Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Craig Thomas of Wyoming, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Gordon H. Smith of Oregon.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, also is targeted, along with committee Republicans E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Florida, Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut, Jim McCrery of Louisiana, Jim Nussle of Iowa, Phil English of Pennsylvania, Jerry Weller of Illinois, Mark Foley of Florida, Bob Beauprez of Colorado and Chris Chocola of Indiana.

Some targeted Republicans support the president’s ideas, while others have expressed concerns or haven’t made their positions clear.

Mr. Kyl supports private accounts and opposes tax increases, but has said Mr. Bush has given ?conceptual? ideas, not a complete plan.

The coalition will target a few Democrats, including the only one so far who supports the private accounts idea: Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida. Most Democrats oppose Mr. Bush’s ideas as risky, expensive and as proposals that would cut benefits.

In the House, Mr. Thomas aims to get bipartisan support by crafting broad legislation that includes Social Security reform as well as other retirement goals, such as improving pensions, individual retirement accounts or long-term health care. Mr. Grassley said he will look at those broader issues separately in his committee.

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