House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) predicted yesterday that partisan warfare over Social Security will quickly render President Bush’s plan “a dead horse” and called on Congress to undertake a broader review of the problems of an aging nation.
Thomas, one of Capitol Hill’s most powerful figures on tax policy, is the highest-ranking House Republican official to cast doubt on the president’s plan for creating individual investment accounts. He said that as an alternative, he will consider changes such as replacing the payroll tax as Social Security’s financing mechanism and adding a savings plan for long-term or chronic care as “an augmentation to Social Security payments.”
Thomas’s comments, which took the White House by surprise, reflected some Republicans’ view that the White House has mishandled the plan’s rollout and that a fresh start is needed to allow a chance for getting Democratic support.
Speaking two days before Bush’s second inauguration, Thomas said Bush’s plan as it has been described “cannot, given the politics of the House and the Senate,” win passage in both chambers.
“Every breath that’s spent on discussing that plan is an attempt to lay a political ground war for the next election,” Thomas said. “Save those breaths. Talk about what we need to do now that the president’s plan is on the table so that we can address, in a legislative way, a solution on a bill the president could sign. That would be, I think, a positive gesture. And I’m looking forward to those discussions and not a continual beating of what will soon be a dead horse of their proposal.”