Lott Expects No Action on Social Security
Monday, April 26, 1999; Page A8
Congress will not act this year to revitalize the Social Security system because President Clinton has failed to lead the way, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said yesterday.
Lott also predicted Congress will add as much as $6 billion to Clinton's $6.05 billion emergency request to finance the conflict in Yugoslavia. The money will come from Social Security's surplus.
House Republican leaders spread word last week among GOP members in the House that trying to overhaul Social Security before the 2000 election campaign could involve too much political risk without strong Democratic involvement.
"Once again, we need some leadership from the president," Lott said. "He backed away from real reform of Medicare. He's really proposed nothing on Social Security."
Asked on ABC's "This Week" whether Social Security reform is dead, Lott said: "I don't see it happening this year, because I don't believe the president will really honestly address it."
White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said Lott and other Republicans are the ones who have failed to present a Social Security plan. "The Senate majority leader, while criticizing the president's plans, has offered no specific measures of his own," Sperling said.
Both parties have made shoring up Social Security a primary goal of the 106th Congress.
This year's expected federal surplus is $110 billion, all from Social Security taxes. Lott said yesterday Social Security surpluses should be held in safekeeping for the nation's retirement program: "Put it in a lockbox. Have a procedure where it can't be just used for every spending program--or for that matter tax cuts--that comes along."
He said dipping into the surplus to pay for Yugoslavia operations is required because Clinton requested the money on an emergency basis.
Clinton's request was solely for money to cover the cost of the Kosovo conflict.
Republicans have demanded add-ons to alleviate what they consider Clinton administration slights to the military that could push the request to more than $18 billion.
"I don't think we should take this opportunity to look at adding every military need we may have been aware of," Lott said on ABC, but said it "should include a pay raise" and other things that "would probably be somewhere in the range of 10 or 11 billion dollars."
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