WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's call for Congress to slow the rise in Social Security benefits is causing consternation inside both political parties, an inauspicious start for a recommendation the White House says should foster a bipartisan deal to reduce deficits.
"I made a promise to the people of Rhode Island that I would always oppose cuts to Social Security, and I'm going to keep that promise," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat so politically secure that he won re-election last fall by a margin of nearly 2-1 over his rival. The proposal "is nothing more than a benefit cut disguised behind technical jargon," he added in a written statement that called the plan by its budget-geek name of "chained CPI.".
Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, a 14th-term lawmaker from the Rochester, N.Y., region, went one step further. "I urge the president to remove chained CPI, along with the Medicare cuts, from his budget because these crucial benefits have no place as a bargaining chip in a deficit reduction deal," she said.
Republicans, too, have been conflicted, curiously enough, in a way that only adds to Obama's difficulties with his customary Democratic allies.
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, in charge of the GOP campaign to keep control of the House in 2014, accused the president of "trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors."
House Speaker John Boehner made plain his disagreement with Walden, and sought to reframe the issue to make it sound like Obama was grudgingly moving toward Republicans on the issue. The president has recommended "modest reforms," he told reporters, adding they were "the least we must do to begin to solve the problems of Social Security."