GOP senators: Social Security off table

After a briefing from Senate leaders, several Republicans said they were in agreement that Social Security reform will not be part of the "fiscal cliff" deal being negotiated Sunday. 

"Chained CPI won't be a part of the deal," Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told reporters.

Democrats said earlier that Republicans had demanded a politically contentious reduction in Social Security benefits, known as chained CPI, in exchange for President Obama’s request to extend emergency unemployment benefits and cancel deep cuts to the Pentagon and other agency budgets. A Democratic aide close to the talks described the request as a “poison pill.”

Sunday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) went down to the Senate floor to make his position explicit and public. “We’re willing to make difficult concessions as part of a balanced, comprehensive agreement,” he said, “but we’ll not agree to cut Social Security benefits as part of a small or short-term agreement.”

One Republican senator denied that Social Security was ever a Republican demand. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) tweeted: 

Meanwhile, senior Republican aides said that Democrats had not indicated until Sunday that it was a deal-breaker, as earlier GOP proposals included the Social Security benefit reduction. 

After an almost two-hour meeting with fellow Democrats, Reid (D-Nev.) called the move "desperation." 

"Here's the situation: I hear that some Republican senators of the caucus said that they shouldn't have done CPI and that's true, they shouldn't have done that in the first place, it was desperation," he said. "We're still left with a proposal they've given us that protects the wealthy and not the middle class. I'm not going to agree to that."

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Paul Kane · December 30, 2012