By Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are making a pre-election pitch to give Social Security recipients a one-time payment of $250, part of a larger effort to convince senior voters that their party, and not Republicans, will best look out for the 58 million people who get the government retirement and disability benefits.
The $250 check is meant to make up for a second year without a cost-of-living increase due to low inflation.
President Barack Obama has urged Congress to approve the $250 payment. House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid say they will bring up the legislation (H.R. 5987) when lawmakers return for the lame-duck session in November. In the meantime, Democrats are using the proposal to augment their campaign pitch that Republicans would undermine Social Security.
"Instead of helping seniors," Pelosi's office said, "Republicans, backed by their allies on Wall Street, are threatening to privatize and cut Social Security, just as they tried to do under President Bush."
Added Reid, "The only thing standing in the way of America's seniors receiving this critical support are Senate Republicans."Actually, 12 Democrats and one independent who aligns himself with Democrats joined 37 Republicans in blocking the $250 bonus when the Senate voted on the issue last March. Two of the Senate Democrats who voted against it then, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, are engaged in tough campaign battles to keep their seats.
Democratic leaders in the House never brought the issue up for a vote. Obama first asked Congress for the $250 payment last February.
"It's clearly a last-ditch election-year Hail Mary," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. If supplementing the incomes of seniors was really a priority, he said, Democrats would have acted on it before they adjourned for the campaign.