Two recent editorials on Social Security, including one yesterday, have mischaracterized the position of congressional Democrats as refusing to acknowledge that the program needs fixing and have criticized Democrats for focusing on the pitfalls of privatization rather than solutions. The former charge is false; the latter ignores reality.

Democrats have repeatedly and unequivocally stated from the start of this debate that Social Security faces a long-term challenge that must be addressed. The claim that they fail to recognize this challenge is a Republican canard that The Post should not indulge.

Democrats also consistently have called for a bipartisan effort to strengthen Social Security. We are eager to discuss how to make Social Security strong into the next cen- tury, and we have many ideas on how to do so.

Unfortunately, the White House and Republicans in Congress insist on a risky privatization proposal that weakens Social Security by slashing benefits for the middle class and adding trillions of dollars of debt to pay for private accounts.

Democrats are indeed focused on "what's right for the country," as yesterday's editorial put it. But President Bush and Republican congressional leaders have shown little interest in joining us in repeating the example of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D). In 1983 those two men took ideology and politics out of the Social Security equation and put the interests of the people first.

When the president and the Republican leadership in Congress are ready to follow this bipartisan example, discard their ideological allegiance to private accounts and join us in a true bipartisan effort, we will welcome them to the negotiating table.


House Minority Leader (D-Calif.)


House Minority Whip (D-Md.)