Hillary Clinton Is Noncommittal On Social Security Expansion — For Now

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WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton is not taking a position just yet on Social Security expansion, an issue with growing support in the Democratic Party that several of her prospective presidential primary rivals have endorsed.

The Clinton campaign told TPM on Thursday, in response to a query, that the Democratic frontrunner “will have a lot to say” about the issue and emphasized her opposition to privatizing Social Security.

“Hillary has spent a lot of time these last several months looking at bold solutions for our toughest challenges and she’s now asking questions and sharing ideas directly with voters. As the campaign ramps up, she will have a lot to say about strengthening retirement security,” Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Clinton’s newly minted campaign, said in an emailed statement. “Hillary has a record of fighting against privatizing Social Security and opposing cuts to seniors benefits and, as she said yesterday, dealing with challenges facing older Americans is a top priority for her.”

Two other potential Democratic primary contenders — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — have championed Social Security expansion, which primarily involves providing more generous benefits and paying for them by lifting the income cap on payroll taxes.

O’Malley told WMUR last month in New Hampshire that he would push to expand Social Security if elected president. He intends to reaffirm that position in a speech about the economy Thursday evening at Harvard Kennedy School. “Rather than reducing Social Security benefits or privatizing Social Security, we need to expand Social Security benefits,” O’Malley will say, according to his political team.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has long been a supporter of expanding Social Security benefits. He said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference that the next president should “absolutely” support expansion.

Clinton is crushing all of her Democratic hopefuls in the polls.

The issue, once confined to the fringes of the Democratic Party, is quickly gaining traction. A non-binding budget amendment to expand Social Security last month offered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) won the votes of 42 out of 46 Democratic senators. Just two voted against it. Progressive advocates, with the blessing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), are pushing Democratic 2016 candidates to embrace expansion.

Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has been aggressively pushing the issue, said he has discussed it “numerous times” with the Clinton campaign.

“I’m confident they are aware of what expand Social Security means, that Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa kicked off this debate in Congress, and that it’s now the near-unanimous position of Senate Democrats thanks to Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin,” he said in an email. “I’m hopeful this is something they choose to embrace sooner rather than later, and think they’d win major props from voters and progressives for showing leadership on this issue.”

Republicans are united against the idea — many of them prefer to trim benefits to avoid letting the Social Security trust fund dip into the red.

This article has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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