The politics of Social Security flared up again yesterday, two days after Election Day, as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) urged a presidential commission to defer its reform recommendations until House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) drafts a plan to save the system.
Otherwise, Dole said, he feared that Democrats would keep accusing Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security without saying what the Democrats would do. Dole said this was unfair and he no longer wanted to be the target.
O'Neill promptly turned down the idea. An aide said, "For the House Democratic leadership to make any proposals now would be to put the cart before the horse. The commission should act first, then the Ways and Means Committee can move on the required legislation."
The commission is scheduled to meet Nov. 11 to 13 to start formulating its recommendations, and its Republican chairman, Alan Greenspan, said late yesterday that the meeting would go forward as scheduled.
Greenspan, in a statement issued through his office here, said he hoped the commission, appointed by President Reagan with a requirement that it report by Dec. 31, would complete most of its work at the upcoming meeting. If not, he said, it would meet again as needed in order to hand in its report by year's end.
Robert Ball, former Social Security commissioner and a Democratic commission member, also said he wanted the Nov. 11 meeting to go forward.
Dole, a commission member, said the Democrats had bludgeoned Republicans during the election campaign with charges that the GOP planned to cut Social Security and may have picked up as many as 10 of their 26 new seats in the House as a result.
To avoid a recurrence of that, he said, the speaker should make known in advance what he would back. Then the Democrats wouldn't be in a position to take potshots at any plan proposed by the commission, which has a GOP-appointed majority, without saying what they would do.
Dole, emphasizing that the Social Security old-age insurance trust fund may run as much as $150 billion to $200 billion short over the next seven years if the economy performs poorly, said he doesn't want to be "trapped by partisan Democrats" into coming forward with suggestions they can then shoot down. Instead, he indicated, he'd much prefer that the positions be reversed.
Pointing out that the old-age fund will borrow $1 billion today from the better off disability fund to pay benefits, the first of a series of up to $11 billion in interfund loans authorized by Congress, Dole said he is willing to extend the interfund authority when it expires next July.
But he said that would certainly not be enough to tide the old-age fund over its temporary cash troubles, and bipartisan agreement would be necessary to work up the needed solutions.