WAS SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM PART OF THE DEAL FOR RECONCILIATION?

We know a deal was struck on reconciliation. And we know what that looks like on the reconciliation side. But what did it take to get that? Cohn suggests Obama made a firmer commitment to paygo rules. Which is strange, as his commitment to them was pretty firm already. Congressional Quarterly has a more worrying suggestion: That Kent Conrad extracted promises that the administration would let him start tinkering with Social Security:

One outstanding question is what Conrad may get in exchange for not standing in the way of reconciliation provisions.

“Would I want things? Yeah,” Conrad said.

Conrad and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, have long pushed for creating a task force that would write policy prescriptions for the government’s long-term budget problems that Congress would have to vote on.

When asked if this proposal could in some way be part of a potential deal on the budget resolution, Conrad only would say that many things have been discussed.

It says something about the state of American politics that the Democratic chairman of the Budget Committee has to be bribed so he doesn't stand in the way of efforts to ensure that 50 million people receive health insurance coverage. Obviously, his incentives are to maximize his own influence, but it's still weird.

Update: To further emphasize this point, Allen Boyd is on the conference committee from the House side. As Matt Yglesias notes, Boyd was the only Democrat to endorse Bush's Social Security privatization scheme. That gives means five of eight conferees -- Conrad, Boyd, Gregg, Ryan, and Hensarling -- would be inclined to muck about with Social Security. It's not solid evidence that Social Security is vulnerable. But when combined with Conrad's odd quote above, it's suggestive.

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