Bipartisan changes to Social Security possible, McConnell says

01/13/2011 07:15 PM

Saying “Social Security is not sustainable,” Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said the divided government gives Congress a chance to tackle reforms to the program and have both parties share the blame.

McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, said on Pure Politics Thursday that he expects to build on the working relationship that blossomed last month with President Barack Obama’s administration — specifically Vice President Joe Biden — during the lame duck session of Congress.

“I think we can do some business, and I hope that among the business items will be something about our long-term unfunded liabilities — the entitlement programs that are unsustainable, that we don’t even vote on and that are unfair to our children and grandchildren,” he said.

McConnell responded to comments made by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday’s Meet the Press in which Reid said Social Security “works and is fully funded for the next 40 years.”

“He knows that’s not the case,” McConnell said. “That’s not what anybody says behind closed doors.”

McConnell said the Obama administration is “not delusional on this.”

“The question is, do we have the will,” he said. However, he declined to say what types of reforms he prefers, such as raising the retirement age.

McConnell said Congress will have two prime opportunities to debate long-term reforms to Social Security and Medicare will be when the continuation budget expires in March and when Congress decides whether to raise the debt ceiling.

Currently, the most debt the country can take on is $14.3 trillion. But with the current debt level at $13.9 trillion, the next federal budget will almost certainly shatter that because the country has been running up a more than $1 trillion-a-year deficit.

Some of his GOP colleagues have said they won’t vote to increase the debt limit unless there is some assurance of spending cuts or reforms. McConnell said he wouldn’t go that far.

“I don’ think we have to issue any threats. We ought to view it as an opportunity,” he said.

- Ryan Alessi

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