Sanders Hails Decision To Go Light On Social Security In SOTU

Ron Sachs / CNP/Newscom

On a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leading progressive voice on Capitol Hill, praised reports that President Obama will not endorse the changes to Social Security suggested by his deficit reduction commission.

According to the Washington Post, Obama “has decided not to endorse” the panel’s call “to raise the retirement age, and otherwise reduce Social Security benefits” in his State of the Union address.

Instead, Obama will keep his comments about Social Security vague. The paper reports “he is likely to urge lawmakers to work together to make the program solvent, without going into details, according to congressional sources.”Progressives had worried Obama might embrace the growing call from Republicans to make significant changes to the way Social Security works. Sanders said the news that Obama would say nothing specific about the program one way or the other was good enough to alleviate those fears.

“I was very pleased to see in the media this afternoon that the president will not — underline will not — advocate raising the retirement age,” Sanders said. “I applaud the president for standing up for Social Security.”

Sanders was on the call with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who joined with the Vermont independent in condemning the Republican budget plan — which was proposed by the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who Republicans chose to give their official response to Obama’s speech tomorrow night. The two Senators said that decision amounted to a tacit endorsement of Ryan’s controversial budget-balancing plan by the GOP majority.

When the so-called “Ryan roadmap” was introduced last year, few Republicans would sign on to it publicly — but, since winning control of the House in November, Republicans everywhere have been quick to praise Ryan as a visionary. Ryan’s since become the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a leader on economic issues for the caucus.

Whitehouse said Ryan’s plan, which slashes taxes on capital gains, would create an even larger gap between rich and poor.

“The Ryan plan essentially relives the richest Americans from any responsibility to pay for the support of their country,” he said. “Our country should not be a country where the super rich get to play by different rules than people who are working their way up to their own American dream.”

Sanders said he was happy to see the Republicans decided to stand behind Ryan after months of offering vague talk of deep government cuts.

“Let me begin by stating very clearly that I applaud the Republicans for choosing Mr. Ryan,” he said. “Up until this point, the GOP leadership has been vague about what fed programs they want to cut. On the other hand, Mr. Ryan has been very clear.”