Friday, November 17, 2006

Baucus Says Bush's Plan for Social Security Is 'Off the Table'

The incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said yesterday that he wants to hold hearings on looming insolvencies in the Medicare and Social Security programs but that President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security is dead.

"Don't waste our time," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). "It's off the table."

Baucus said the rising cost of Medicare and other health costs is a priority for the committee, though he did not detail how it will approach those problems. He said he will hold "vigorous" hearings on the issue.

The senator said he will propose legislation to simplify the Medicare prescription-drug program by streamlining the number of plans available and making it easier for people to choose one.

Baucus, 64, has been on the committee for more than two decades. He was briefly chairman when Democrats took Senate control in 2001, the same year he collaborated with Bush on tax-cut legislation. Baucus sided with the GOP on a Medicare overhaul in 2003, a move that frustrated many in his party who believed the bill was a giveaway to drug companies.

For the Record

· Former White House official David Safavian will remain free on bond while appealing his conviction for lying and obstructing justice in the investigation of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a federal judge said. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington said that Safavian, formerly the government's top procurement officer, is not a flight risk or a danger to the community and has raised "substantial questions of law" regarding his June 20 conviction. Safavian was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

· Robert M. Gates is making his first round of visits on Capitol Hill since being named by President Bush to replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The one-on-one meetings with lawmakers today are in anticipation of Gates's confirmation hearing next month. The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hold the hearing the week of Dec. 4.

· The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has unanimously approved a bill written by Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and co-sponsored by Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) that would extend the term of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR). Without this legislation, the SIGIR's term would expire Oct. 1, 2007. The legislation would enable the inspector general to continue oversight work until late 2008.

-- From News Services

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