This vote was on an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would modify the budget resolution to allow for legislation that would prohibit borrowing from the Social Security trust fund in order to finance other government programs.
The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2009. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
DeMint said urgent action is needed to address the projected shortfalls in Social Security spending. DeMint said that within the next decade, the current surplus in the Social Security trust fund will be depleted.
“We will begin to transfer money from the general fund to pay for Social Security,” DeMint said. “Over the last two decades, we have taken over $2 trillion of Social Security surplus and spent it on other things. In the next 5 years alone, counting interest, we will take another trillion of this surplus and spend it elsewhere. This amendment simply says we should spend this Social Security surplus that is in front of us only on Social Security.”
Max Baucus, D-Mont., said DeMint’s amendment would have the effect of privatizing Social Security because of language in the amendment that would allow “prefunding” Social Security accounts. He said Congress has rejected similar legislation repeatedly in the past.
“This will increase insolvency of the Social Security trust fund, not help it, despite what the Senator said,” Kyl said. “Essentially, this, as stated in the language, sets up private accounts for the benefits of investments and savings. We all know that the volatility of the stock market is not the best thing for seniors.”
President Bush and his allies in Congress would like to change the Social Security system, getting away from a socialized entitlement program and instead allowing workers to put the money deducted from their payrolls into a private investment account. But Democrats counter that Social Security is an important safety net for seniors that should not be left up to the ups and downs of the investment market.
The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 41-57. All but eight Republicans present voted for the amendment. Of Democrats present, all but one voted against it (Claire McCaskill of Missouri). The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would have allowed for legislation to prevent the Social Security trust fund from being spent on other programs.