Canton Repository

February 3, 2005

Ohio GOP lawmakers cautious on Bush’s plan

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Though they are natural allies of President Bush on many issues, area GOP lawmakers reacted cautiously to new details of the president’s controversial plan to strengthen Social Security.

Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, stopped short of supporting the president’s proposal, which Bush began to flesh out in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.

Democrats meanwhile criticized the plan, which they consider risky and premature.

Although Regula believes Congress ought to address structural weaknesses in Social Security now rather than later, he isn’t sure that Bush’s still-emerging proposal would prevent the retirement program from running out of money.

“I don’t know for sure what his plan is,” he said. “I haven’t seen a bill. This is a very sensitive subject. You want to be sure that people’s rights and the things they depend on are taken care of.”

Ney said he needed “more detail” on Bush’s plan “before I can offer my full support.”

Democrat Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain blasted the plan, which he called a “radical Wall Street experiment.”

“Even if we don’t lift a finger, Social Security will still deliver 100 percent of promised benefits until 2052 and 80 percent thereafter,” he said. “The sky is not falling.”

Bush has warned that unless fundamental changes are made, Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it takes in through taxes by 2018 and will go bankrupt in 2042.

Reacting to other elements of Bush’s speech, Regula stressed the need to improve education and control spending, two areas where he has clout as a key member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Ney emphasized job creation.

“We have achieved some progress in recent months, but there are still too many areas, especially in rural communities, where people are struggling,” Ney said.

The lawmakers praised the performance of U.S. troops around the world.

Regula said the widely praised elections that took place in Iraq on Sunday are a “testament to our troops in Iraq and throughout the world who have given the people of Iraq hope and a view of democracy.”