House Minority Leader John Boehner won’t say if the Republican Party will again try to privatize Social Security, even as the GOP pushes fiscal responsibility as a major issue in their quest to win back control of Congress.
When the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz asked Boehner (R-OH) if the failed 2005 Social Security privatization plan would resurface this year, the Republican leader twice answered, “I have no idea.”From the Post:
Later, he called back to clarify, saying that what he meant to say was that, until Republicans complete their process of soliciting ideas from the American people, there will be no answer to that question. “We’re not going to prejudge what’s going to come out of this listening project.”
But what else would Republicans push if they took back the House? Here at TPM we’ve been searching for the answer on the Social Security question for months. The official Republican line is, well, a little fuzzy.
Party leaders hail Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as an innovative thinker who is the future of the GOP. They even named Ryan to President Obama’s fiscal commission aimed at fixing entitlement programs. But they won’t quite embrace his budget blueprint, which dramatically cuts Medicare and Social Security before effectively privatizing the systems using vouchers and individual accounts. That’s one reason Democrats have tried to use the Ryan budget as a wedge issue by threatening to force votes on the plan — they want to get candidates to say where they stand on Ryan’s ideas.
As for Boehner, he distanced himself from Ryan’s blueprint at first this winter, even though he doesn’t disagree with anything in it.
Boehner told TPM in February: “Paul Ryan, who’s the ranking member on our budget committee, has done an awful lot of work in putting together his road map … But it’s his. And I know the Democrats are trying to say that it’s the Republican leadership. But they know that’s not the case.”
Expect Democrats to keep pressing this issue, especially after the interview with Balz. The “listening project” that Boehner referred to is in full force, with 10,000 idea submissions so far, according to an internal GOP memo obtained by TPM. Their site isn’t searchable, so it’s tough to know if Republican voters are asking for their leaders to bring back the Bush-era Social Security privatization plan.