Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he told Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolton that the Social Security discussion needed to be expanded to include Medicare funding problems and a tax-code overhaul.
Conrad, who said he didn't listen to Bush's comments, praised Thomas for suggesting alternatives to using the payroll tax to fund Social Security. ``There's been an over-reliance on payroll taxes,'' he said.
Conrad is part of a bipartisan group led by Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, that is trying to develop fixes to the Social Security system.
And the Associated Press picks up from there ...
Conrad said Wednesday that he has already being heavily lobbied: Treasury Secretary John Snow phoned to talk Social Security; the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Josh Bolten, came to visit; and breakfast is scheduled next week with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
"If this is just one of those things where the president says, It's my way or the highway ... I can't be for that," Conrad said. But he added: "I think there is a kernel of a good idea in creating accounts that individuals can control."
He said he wants Social Security addressed along with tax reform, long-term care and the solvency of Medicare -- big issues in their own right -- and he said he opposes borrowing large sums to pay for the private accounts, which many think will be necessary.
The backstory here, of course, is the four-state campaign swing President Bush is planning right after the State of the Union, to two states represented by senators from the Fainthearted Faction (Arkansas and North Dakota) and two (Florida and Montana) with senators who have been holding firm.
More soon ...