Senate Votes 100-0 to Make Social Security a Priority
In a purely symbolic vote, the United States Senate today voted unanimously for a non-binding measure saying strengthening Social Security is “a vital national priority.” Given that it’s rare for all 100 senators to show up to vote for anything, let alone a non-binding measure, this is at least interesting.
The Senate voiced its support Tuesday for both a conciliatory approach and a sharply partisan approach to buttressing Social Security in symbolic votes that left questions about exactly how or when lawmakers will address the program’s problems. In a series of symbolic votes on President Bush’s effort to overhaul the pension system, senators first voted 100-0 for nonbinding language by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saying strengthening Social Security is “a vital national priority.” Graham, who has sought bipartisan compromise on the issue, pointedly avoided the term “crisis,” which Bush has used to objections by Democrats.
The provision also said lawmakers “should work together at the earliest opportunity to enact legislation to achieve a solvent and permanently sustainable Social Security system.” It omitted details of how the program would be reshaped.
In the mostly party-line votes that followed, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected one Democratic plan making it harder for Congress to approve future tax cuts or spending increases until Social Security’s long-term solvency is assured. It also defeated another Democratic proposal stating opposition to any overhaul of the program involving deep benefit cuts or a big debt increase. Yet in a mostly party-line 56-43 vote, senators approved a similar provision by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., warning that failure to act would cause “massive debt, deep benefit cuts and tax increases.”
Overall, the votes seemed to signal an eagerness by both parties to attack each other over Social Security rather than take specific, politically risky steps to shore it up.
Particularly interesting is Lindsey Graham’s leadership in this. He was perceived as a very partisan Member of the House yet has emerged as a consensus builder in his freshman term in the Senate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him rise quickly in the leadership.