Is President Bush prepared to OK Social Security reform without his beloved private accounts?
At a White House luncheon with Republican Senators yesterday, Robert Bennett of Utah told President Bush that he would soon propose a bill without the accounts.
But if you think it's shocking that a Republican Senator would break away from the Bush gameplan, hold onto your hat.
According to an article in the June 22 edition of The Hill, Bennett said that Bush told him to “go ahead” with the bill.
As Jon Stewart might say: "Wha?"
Bush did not comment on the pending legislation. The White House told reporters that Bush's comments indicate he welcomes a discussion of options.
Other Republican Senators attending the luncheon downplayed Bennett's pending proposal.
Larry Craig of Idaho said the president “remained very upbeat on his approach” and noted that Bennett’s conversation with the president did not take place in front of the entire delegation.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-PA), who has been Bush's main lackey in the Senate on privatization, said Bush's response to "go ahead" was not an endorsement of Bennett's alternate proposal.
Bennett, however, seemed optimistic that his alternative plan had a better chance of passage than the president's.
"Democrats and some Republicans say, 'We will not vote for anything that includes personal accounts,' and that seems to have slowed the whole thing down," Bennett told the Salt Lake Tribune. "My reaction is, that shouldn't slow the whole thing down and let's find out how serious people really are when they say, 'Yes, there really is a problem, but I don't like personal accounts.'"
The idea that it might be easier to pass Social Security reform without privatization has gained steam of late. Even the author of the reform plan Bush has embraced has suggested as much.