GOP House leaders want Clinton to recommit to Social Security 'lockbox'
By Dana Bash/CNN
September 14, 1999
Web posted at: 3:38 p.m. EDT (1938 GMT)
Washington -- Members of the House Republican leadership sent a letter to President Bill Clinton Tuesday calling on him to stop "Washington's budget practice of stealing from the Social Security Trust Fund."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas), and Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Oklahoma) reminded the president of his promise to support their push to put the Social Security surplus in a so-called "lockbox," safe from general spending funds.
"When we met in July, you endorsed our effort to stop using the Social Security Trust Fund as a government spending slush fund," wrote the members. "Regrettably, Senate Democrats failed to listen and continue to hold this effort hostage by blocking debate and a final vote on the Retirement Security Lockbox to strengthen Social Security and pay down the debt."
With their tax-cut plan all but dead for the year, Republicans say they plan to step up calls for debt reduction and protection of the Social Security Trust Fund which, unlike tax cuts, ranks high on the priority list in most public opinion polls.
"This is our number one priority right now," says John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker Hastert, "our line in the sand now is preserving the Social Security Trust Fund." Senate Democrats say they support the idea of a "lockbox," but want to it to include the Medicare trust fund as well as Social Security.
The Republican leaders also expressed "concern" in their letter about the president's new calls for spending, saying it could put the "sanctity of the Social Security Trust Fund in continued jeopardy."
They note the president intends to request billions of dollars in new spending for activities in Kosovo, and ask him to include with that request suggestions about how to pay for it.
"Unless the president offsets that request, we're not going to do anything," said Feehery.