GOP Social Security Plan Draws Criticism from Both Sides

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - Feeling under siege from members of his own party and the White House, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) gave a sharp response to criticisms made by President Clinton about the House GOP stance on Social Security. Clinton criticized the GOP legislation before he left on a fundraising trip to California and earlier in the day also took issue with the GOP proposals.

Clinton said he was delighted that Bush thinks House Republicans shouldn't balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor. Bush was commenting on the Republicans earned income tax proposal. Clinton responded, "This is a difficult thing for the Republicans because unlike us, they don't want to provide reasonable offsets so that we can begin this year to segregate the Social Security surplus from the general revenue surplus and not dip into the Social Security surplus any more. That requires good, firm decisions with reasonable offsets. And we've given them to Congress. And I hope that the reaction across the country to their idea to raise taxes on the poor will provoke them to reconsider the offsets we have offered."

On Capitol Hill, Hastert reacted by saying, "The President has proposed to increase excise taxes on the poorest Americans. We have fought that proposal. The President has proposed to raid the Social Security surplus. He proposed in his budget to raid Social Security by 40 percent to pay for other spending. We have fought that proposal."

Hastert went on to say, " I am happy that the President now says he will join with us to protect Social Security. But this is hard work and we need the President's help."

Clinton reiterated that he believes he did the right thing in vetoing the Republicans tax cut. "They can't even pay for this year's spending without getting into the Social Security surplus. They certainly couldn't pay for this year's spending, the spending it will necessitate in the years to come and the tax cut on top of that." Clinton, however, indicated, he is keeping the lines of communication open to congressional Republicans as well as Democrats in hopes of ironing out budget problems.

On the earned income tax credit that drew criticism from Bush, Hastert commented, "Our proposal to reform the earned income tax proposal is common sense. It gives help every month to those citizens who are making the transition from welfare to work. Our proposal helps the working poor by giving them a monthly supplement. These are Americans who pay no income taxes and need some help paying their bills. This proposal helps them provide for their families on a monthly basis, to put food on the table." Hastert also said the Democrats themselves proposed the same reform plan in 1979.

Hastert still thinks Clinton wants to spend more government money. "Make no mistake. The President wants to spend more money while we want to keep the budget balanced. He has threatened to veto half of our (Republican) spending bills, because he wants to spend more money."