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.

Senate to make Social Security priority (AP)

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.

Hardly shocking.

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.

FILED UNDER: Social Security
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Maggie says:

    100 – 0

    Kerry showed up for a vote?

  2. Clint Lovell says:

    Isn’t that special? We have a sense of the Congress? No leadership, but a sense of the Congress…

    What is this? Another trial balloon by these spineless pseudo-Republicans to see if they should act like the leaders they TOLD US THEY WERE when they wanted our votes?

    Now, to compound the farce they are going to consider another round of benefit cuts and tax increases to try and stave off the day of reckoning (and thereby make the reckoning that much more expensive, painful, and potentially disastrous).

    Has it occurred to any of these geniuses we have annointed that if tax increases could fix this problem one of the prior dozen or so should have done it by now?

    No. It hasn’t, yet they continue to pound their heads against that wall because – EVIDENTLY – it is less painful for them than coming up with an original thought or new idea on how to actually fix this mess.

    They worry about the drugs my kids might be taking, but the rest of us are (EVIDENTLY) left to wonder what kind of drugs THEY are in fact taking and not sharing with the rest of us…

    In the end, all the editorial board support in the world is not going to shield them from the wrath of the electorate who will eventually turn on them and throw them out because when they had the opportunity to lead (that they asked us to give them), they lacked the courage to actually lead. They hid. They procrastinated. They pondered.

    Yet we pay. Every year they wait to fix it the right way, every man, woman, and child in this country gets socked with around $2,000 each to pay off because they are too stupid, too shallow, and too scared to do what they all know is the right thing.

    Where are the Republicans?

  3. Katherine says:

    That’s not the interesting one; this is:

    “To express the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt.”

    50 Republicans voted no. The campaign commercials write themselves. Graham, who is an intriguing guy, was not one of them–he joined Collins, Snowe, DeWine and Specter. It’s truly inspiring to see a Republican Senator from the South with a conscience (I’m remembering his reaction to Abu Ghraib) and a brain, but this probably harms his chances at the leadership if anything.

  4. Jack Tanner says:

    A 100-0 vote in support of doing something about a problem that they haven’t done anything about for 20 years. That’s at least as convincing as my promise to clean out the garage next weekend.

  5. McGehee says:

    And the amendment (or whatever) that Katherine highlights, is like promising to clean out the garage without throwing anything away, moving anything to storage, or putting it in the basement, attic, or a closet somewhere.