IS CONGRESS TURNING TOWARDS SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM?

Steny Hoyer, it seems, is making some noises about Social Security reform. Good luck with that, I guess. The interesting nugget in the article, however, is that "House and Senate leaders have resisted the idea of naming a special commission to work on the problem, insisting that congressional committees can handle it." Hoyer is, of course, one of those leaders. And this makes Social Security reform much harder.

What liberals fear on Social Security reform is something like the proposed Conrad-Gregg Commission. A bipartisan commission that creates a set of recommendations and then fast tracks them through Congress. In general, the idea behind these proposals is that Congress can't change the commission's recommendation: It just votes up-or-down. Trying to run entitlement reform through the normal congressional process is like trying to run the Iditarod on a tight rope: You can't balance the two sides. A solution conservatives will support would be anathema to liberals. A solution liberals would support would enrage conservatives. And so the Senate turns its attention to something else. That's the whole reason that commission proposals are so popular among entitlement reformers: Experience shows you can't achieve this through the congressional committee.

Which means that for the moment, the congressional leadership appears to be letting members talk this up rhetorically even as they bury it procedurally. Which makes intuitive sense. Does anyone think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi sit up nights hoping to raise the retirement age on Social Security?

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