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July 15, 2005

Why Grassley Can't Move

Senator Grassley sees no way forward on Social Security:

Radio Iowa: Grassley says Social Security reform stalled: Republicans on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee can't agree on how to reform Social Security, and the panel's chairman, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, says they may be close to failure, though he says he's not giving up yet. Grassley, a Republican, says most Democrats agree Social Security is in sad shape, but he says no one's coming up with any better ideas on how to fix the program.

Grassley says "There's no point in us doing anything until we get Democrats to the table and if we don't get Democrats to the table then we might not do anything because, right now, there hasn't been a single Democrat, either on the issues of solvency or personal accounts, come to the table to talk about anything." Grassley has proposed a bill he says would slow the growth of Social Security benefits for most workers while raising the retirement age and freezing the maximum benefit for the nation's highest-paid workers, but he says it's stalled. Grassley says "We're kind of in a situation where, considering the fact it's impossible to get anything through the Senate that's not bipartisan, we could be at a standstill on the issue of Social Security even though 100 senators know there's a problem we have to deal with." He says he'll continue to work toward consensus on the key elements, like solvency and personal accounts, with the issue going before the committee again on Thursday.

Grassley's problem is that whatever deals he strikes in the Senate will be reversed when the bill goes to the conference committee. He needs a commitment from the Republican House leadership that they will pass the Senate bill unaltered. That's where the breakdown of legislative process has gotten us. That's a piece of paper Grassley needs to have in his hand before he can move anything that isn't partisan posturing out of his committee.

It would be nice if some print journalist somewhere would write something about how the present gridlock is in large part a result of the use made of conference committees since the start of 2001.

Posted by DeLong at July 15, 2005 11:38 AM