Monday, February 14, 2005

Social Security reform critics target N.Y. lawmakers

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Social Security reform critics target N.Y. lawmakers
By John Machacek
Poughkeepsie Journal
Washington bureau
New York's nine Republican members of Congress enter the debate on Social Security with big bull's-eyes on their backs.
With their potentially pivotal votes, they are targets of a statewide coalition of labor unions, community action groups and advocates for the elderly who are opposed to President Bush's plan to overhaul the government retirement system.
If the Republicans don't denounce efforts to privatize Social Security or reduce benefits, the coalition plans to use all the tools of a political campaign against them....

.....Richard Kirsch, executive director of Citizen Action of New York, said lawmakers should not thinke going to get a pass on the Social Security issue. ''There is a visceral reaction against privatization ... and people are ready to take action,'' he said.
Coalition leaders believe there are enough House Republican votes in New York and the Northeast to block any plan that would lead to cuts in guaranteed benefits for both younger and older workers.
Bob Master, the Communication Workers of America's legislative director for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said the 16 Republican House members in his three states are critical votes at a time when Republicans hold a 30-seat majority in the House.
''You flip 16 Republicans, then it's over,'' he said. ''We don't expect to get 100 percent of them to take the right position, but obviously we can put a very big dent in the president's base of support in the House right here in the Northeast.
Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Syracuse, and staffers for Boehlert have met with coalition members while others, including Kelly say they are willing to listen. But Rep. John Sweeney R-Clifton Park, says he won't if the coalition's efforts are ''going to turn into a circus of demonstrations'' over political points people want to make on the Social Security issue.
''I have heard their threats and my response to them is: ''So what is your plan to save Social Security?''' said Sweeney, a former state labor commissioner who received considerable union support in his 2004 re-election campaign.
''They have offered nothing but opposition. I am not interested in hearing that. I'm interested in solving problems.''...