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Democrats in Congress close ranks on Social Security

| Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, 7:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON — While there was a split among moderate and liberal Democrats on Social Security, expanding the program rather than cutting it is becoming the party line on the Hill and on the campaign trail.

On Friday, Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Linda T. Sánchez and Michael M. Honda, both of California, announced legislation to expand Social Security.

Sánchez said the bill could be an alternative to raising the retirement age.

“We think this is a common sense way to extend the solvency of Social Security and to increase benefits,” said the congresswoman, who added that the legislation could move, if not in the current Congress, then in the next one.

On Thursday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee released statements from incumbent Democratic senators and Senate candidates saying they supported Social Security and Medicare expansion.

One of the co-signers was Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who said in a 2010 interview, “We can't solve our budget crisis without dealing with our entitlements.”

But in the release, Bennet, who now looks to have an easier path to re-election than what was once thought, said, “With our seniors living longer, expanding Social Security and securing its long-term solvency will ensure that our most vulnerable Americans who have paid into Social Security all their lives are guaranteed the retirement they deserve.”

Bennet was joined by Senate challengers including former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth, former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, former North Carolina state Rep. Deborah Ross, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold.

In addition, the campaigns of two other Senate candidates, Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania and Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy, confirmed they supported expansion.

Expanding Social Security got a boost when President Obama and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders announced their support.

While expansion is unlikely in the current Republican-controlled Congress, it will also be difficult to pass if Democrats gain control of the Senate and the House remains in GOP hands.

“It's going to take a while,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, an advocacy group. “We are just going to keep steadily moving.”

During the presidential primaries, a Pew Research Center survey found that 71 percent of all voters said benefits should not be reduced.

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