March 20, 2013 / 6:01 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. Senator Durbin to push Social Security reform commission

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The No. 2 U.S. Senate Democrat said on Wednesday he will introduce legislation to form a task force to find ways of shoring up the U.S. Social Security retirement program for the next 75 years.

Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin said the panel would be modeled after the “Simpson-Bowles” deficit-reduction commission that made recommendations to Congress at the end of 2010, but failed to garner enough support to push its comprehensive budget savings through Congress.

“People have been receptive to it. I think we can move forward,” Durbin, of Illinois, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives had no immediate comment on the idea.

Retiring “baby boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964, will place an increasingly heavy burden on the Social Security pension program. Approximately 10,000 baby boomers will hit age 65 every day for the next 17 years or so, according to the Pew Research Center.

The last time major reforms were enacted for Social Security was 1983, when the program also faced fiscal difficulties. Then, a commission that had been formed in 1981 made recommendations to Congress that were adopted, including tax increases to bring more revenues into the program and raising the retirement age.

Republicans have been pushing for reforms of Social Security, as well as the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly, disabled and poor, as part of deficit-reduction negotiations with President Barack Obama that could unfold over the next few months.

But Democrats have resisted including the self-financing Social Security program in those budget talks.

On Wednesday, Durbin called the task force idea “a thoughtful, sensible way to do it (reforms) and say it is separate from the deficit and debt debate.”

While many Democrats have insisted that reforming Social Security be kept separate from the highly-partisan deficit-reduction efforts that have dominated Congress since 2011, Obama has opened the door to some small changes.

In previous budget negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, the two have discussed wringing some savings from Social Security by changing the formula for calculating retirees’ cost-of-living increases.

Durbin’s proposed group would be made up of 18 members, six appointed by Obama, six House members and six senators, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

If 14 out of 18 commission members embraced the ideas, they would be put on a fast track to passage in the Senate and House of Representatives. The panel would have six months to produce and vote on a plan.

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