A group of Senate Democrats has identified the new Tea Party caucuses in the House and Senate as existential threats to Social Security, and are aligning to create a bulwark against them. They’re pressing President Obama to re-engage and get on their side of the issue, and they have some muscle in the form of their message guru, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“We’re not crying wolf here,” Schumer told reporters in the Dirksen Senate office building after a meeting of liberal members. “This is a serious movement to undo the most successful government program in the 20th century.”
Because of Republican victories in November, the new Congress has a significantly higher number of Social Security foes than the last one did. In response, a group of progressives, including Schumer, and led by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have formed the Social Security caucus, to push back against efforts to slash benefits or privatize the program.
They’ll need President Obama to have their back on this — in part because some Democrats think Social Security benefit cuts are the way to go. On that score they’re hopeful, but see room for improvement.
“I think he’s mostly there, I would like to see him be even clearer,” Sanders told reporters. “I would like to see him simply say what he said during the campaign…that he will not support cuts, raising the retirement age, or in any case privatization.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) thinks exigent circumstances muted Obama to some extent, but that he’ll pick up his game when confronted with a juggernaut of conservative support for gutting the program.
“In light of Arizona, in light of the seating arrangements and all that, the President didn’t want to be as combative as he will need to be to beat back this effort with these [senators] starting this ‘get rid of Social Security’ caucus,” Brown said.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.