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Correction to This Article
An Associated Press item in the March 26 Washington in Brief column misstated the number of Democrats in the Senate. There are 44 Democrats, not 45; 55 Republicans; and one independent.


Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page A04

Grassley Voices Doubts On Social Security Bill

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), at the center of the fight over revising Social Security, said yesterday that the odds are against Congress approving the proposal being pushed by President Bush.

"I think it's very difficult for me to say today that we'll present a bill to the president," Grassley said in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors in Des Moines.

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will write the bill. He said he intends to bring it before his committee this summer.

"I think I have a responsibility as chairman . . . to do everything I can to deliver a bill to the president," he said. "The practical aspect of that is, to do that, I have to have a bipartisan compromise."

So far, none of the 45 Democrats in the Senate has embraced Bush's ideas, and many have said there is no urgency to address the issue this year.

Polls show that a majority of Americans agree that Social Security has long-term problems but fewer than half like Bush's idea of letting people divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts.

U.S. Exceeds Limits On High-Tech Visas

The Department of Homeland Security approved 10,000 more applications for visas for high-tech and specialty workers than Congress permitted for this fiscal year.

The mistake was made with H-1B visas, available to foreigners with a bachelor's degree or higher who want to fill U.S. jobs in architecture, engineering, medicine, biotechnology and computer programming.

Only 65,000 H-1B visas are supposed to be given out this fiscal year, although Congress let the department exempt from the limit 20,000 foreigners with graduate degrees from American universities.

"It discourages me to hear that Congress' limit may have been ignored," Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a March 7 letter to Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services unit. He has asked for an explanation and how the agency will prevent exceeding the limit again.

Agency spokesman Bill Strassberger said a last-minute surge in applications was responsible.

-- From News Services

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