This was all before 9/11 and the ongoing sputtering economy pulled the wheels off a legislative locomotive that appeared to be gaining steam with the success of the Bush administration’s tax cuts. Yet senior Republicans on Capitol Hill were surprised yesterday to read in local papers O’Neill’s comments that he was going to return to Washington in the fall and press hard for Social Security reform.
“Where did that come from?” asks one GOP Senate leadership staffer. “Maybe he didn’t notice, but that isn’t something any of us are interested in touching two months before an election.”
O’Neill’s comments came as he joined the president at his Waco business/economic summit, and before the T-man embarks on a swing through economically struggling parts of the country. In what is viewed as a PR push, O’Neill is expected to spend a lot of time in the next few weeks meeting with American workers, small business people and executives, touting America’s economic potential and bright future. From there, O’Neill said he wants to tackle some form of Social Security reform.
“We’ll listen, we’ll let him testify all he wants, but it just isn’t realistic that we’d get knee deep into a mess like Social Security,” said the Senate staffer.
That said, after spending several weeks among constituents, lawmakers could return to Washington with a sense of what voters will expect from them leading into November elections. But even then, everyone agrees the kind of broad-based reform the Bush White House has called for Social Security would be almost impossible to accomplish in what amounts to a six-week window of opportunity.p> GUN FUTURES br> Don’t expect any sudden changes in the leadership of the National Rifle Association now that Charlton Heston
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