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Sen. Harkin: GOP using budget crisis to push ideology

While maintaining that he remains “hopeful” a compromise can be reached between U.S. House Republicans and Senate Democrats before a stop-gap budget bill expires next week, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin made clear that he believes additional caveats should come from the GOP.

“Senate Democrats have agreed to meet House Republicans half-way, with more than $30 billion in cuts,” Harkin told reporters. “But the tea party contingent is still trying to call the shots in the House, threatening to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government if they don’t get all of their demands.

“This is not what Iowans wanted when they voted last November. That’s not the way they want government to work, where one side says, ‘It has got to be my way or the highway.’ They want us to work together.”

During discussions on the budget, Harkin said, discussions regarding cuts to Social Security should be off the table.

“Republicans are seizing on the budget crisis as a pretext to ram through their long-standing ideological wish list,” he said. “At the state level, they are using the budget crisis to attack public-employee unions and to try to privatize public services. Here in Washington they are using it to go after Social Security. This has been their goal since this program was created by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. George W. Bush and the Republicans made a run at privatizing Social Security in 2005 and they failed. Well, here they go again.”

Social Security, he said, has never “contributed one dime to the deficit — and, by law, it never will.” Harkin noted the 2010 annual reports filed by the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, which state that existing trust funds are capable of funding the program for more than two decades — even as the program absorbs massive numbers of baby boomers who are about to reach retirement.

As early as next week, he said, House Republicans are expected to present their budget blueprint “that will end Social Security as we know it.”

“According to press reports, Republicans are looking at raising the Social Security retirement age, decreasing benefits and maybe even privatizing all or part of the program — turning Social Security funds over to Wall Street,” he said. “So, let’s be clear what’s going on here: This latest radical attack on Social Security benefits has nothing what-so-ever to do with reducing budget deficits.”

If House Republicans would agree to lift the cap that requires Americans to only pay Social Security on their first $106,000 of annual income, the program could be stabilized for “generations to come,” he said.

“I will adamantly oppose all Republican efforts to slash Social Security. And, you can mark my words that Iowans and other working Americans won’t stand for cutting Social Security either.”

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