Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell joined 27 other Democratic senators in signing a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing any cuts in Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.
The letter was organized by Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, the founder of the Senate’s Defending Social Security Caucus.
“Social Security is not the cause of our nation’s deficit problem,” the senators wrote. “Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing.”
On January 2, automatic cuts of 9.4 percent in military spending and 8.2 percent in domestic spending are scheduled to go into effect under “sequestration.” Social Security is exempted from sequestration, but alternative budget reduction plans are sure to be debated in 2013.
Looming over all budget deliberations is the work of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which gives a thin patina of bipartisanship to proposals for watering down Social Security’s cost-of-living formula and raising the normal retirement age to 69. Ominously, President Obama has indicated support for Simpson-Bowles as a startiing point for deficit talks.
The senators’ letter is something of a firewall, serving notice that any attack on Social Security in the name of deficit reduction will encounter the firm opposition of a major bloc of senators.