White House Fires Warning Shot At Republicans On Social Security

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and the middle class, Wednesday, March 18, 2015, at the City Club of Cleveland. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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WASHINGTON — A top adviser to President Barack Obama on Friday slammed a House Republican maneuver aimed at forcing a showdown on Social Security as early as next year, signaling that it won’t fly with the White House.

“The House provision was un-constructive and at odds with how this issue has been addressed time and time again in a bipartisan manner,” Brian Deese, senior advisor to the president, told reporters at a breakfast downtown hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “It is just not tenable to walk away from what has been a very clear bipartisan approach to addressing the [disability fund] issue.”

The House GOP budget released this week included a provision to block a traditionally routine transfer of funds — known as a “reallocation” — from the Social Security retirement fund to the Social Security Disability Insurance fund, which is projected to be unable to pay full benefits beginning in 2016. It affirmed a House rule adopted by Republicans in January to prohibit such a reallocation without reforms to improve the overall financial health of Social Security.

Deese said the president would welcome a conversation about Social Security but said the “right way to address this issue” is what Obama’s budget released in February proposed: a “clean” reallocation to shore up the disability fund, something congressional Democrats also support.

The remarks set up a potential battle if Republicans seek to pass binding spending bills that forbid a reallocation. Congress has transferred funds between the program’s retirement and disability funds 11 times, most recently in 1994.

The House Republican budget didn’t propose specific cuts to Social Security, a move that would be politically dangerous ahead of a presidential election. Instead it called for a bipartisan commission to recommend changes to the program. Democrats claim that the GOP is trying to create a crisis atmosphere surrounding Social Security in order to force benefit reductions.

“In short,” the House GOP budget says, “there should be no raiding of the Social Security retirement program to bailout another, currently unsustainable program. Truly what’s needed is a long-term solution to the problems facing Social Security.”

The Senate GOP budget, released Wednesday, does not include a similar provision calling for prohibiting a Social Security reallocation.

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