"Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa said Wednesday that Congress should focus on the solvency of Social Security rather than the president's plan to create personal investment accounts for younger workers." [Des Moines Register, 03/03/05]
"But critics, including most Democrats and some Republicans, say Bush's plan is too risky. Republican Chair of the House Subcommittee on Social Security Jim] McCrery backs the idea of personal accounts but doesn't support creating them by diverting money that's now paid into Social Security. He has suggested the president "take the path that's less politically troublesome." [Shreveport Times, 03/03/05]
"Just in the mail count collectively over the last months, particularly since the President proposed personal savings accounts and the discussion that has ensued in the public domain, more than forty five hundred letters and phone calls in opposition to the plan and only about one hundred and sixteen in favor. So I think that ultimately all of these issues need to be clarified and worked through, and I think it is going to take a much longer process than any one has envisioned." [Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on NPR's Morning Edition, 3/3/05]
"Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who has been working to carve private accounts from Social Security for more than a decade, said, 'You're not going to get conservatives to agree to add-ons.'" [Wall Street Journal, 3/3/05]
"A Westhill/Hotline poll shows that 61% of registered voters disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handing Social Security, an increase of 9% since 2/1." [Hotline Wake-Up Call, 03/03/05]
"On Social Security, 51 percent said permitting individuals to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's plan, was a bad idea … The number who thought private accounts were a bad idea jumped to 69 percent if respondents were told that the private accounts would result in a reduction in guaranteed benefits." [New York Times, 03/03/05]
"Fewer than half, 46 percent, in a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, said they support the plan to allow younger workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds — down from 54 percent who supported that plan in December." [AP, 03/02/05]
Let's take a moment to remind ourselves: who were the first two Republicans in this Congress to pour cold water on this idea? Olympia Snowe and Bill Thomas. Seems to me that they're the ones in line with public opinion, no matter how much the President tries to paint them as obstructionist (which, in due course, he will), and no matter how many times Sen. Frist vascillates (following on from the news items we posted 2/13/05, regarding a sudden skepticism, the Majority Leader appears to have jumped back in line with the White House in the last few days).
Meanwhile, in the South wing, Speaker Hastert has cannily thrown the matter to the Senate, telling journalists "It wouldn’t do us any good if we pass a bill and the Senate doesn’t". In other words, until a bill gets out of the Senate, the House isn't going to touch it. This is a smart move by the Speaker, because it practically guarantees that no matter what the outcome of Social Security reform, his hands are going to be kept clean. Denny Hastert may wield the Speaker's power more quietly than his predecessor, Newt Gingrich, but you can't doubt the skill and effectiveness with which he does so.