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Dems Stake Out Social Security Battleground

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UPDATE -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 18 Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday calling for an end to "Republican obstruction" of a cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries. In an email to HuffPost, McConnell's office responded that the "obstruction" vote referenced by Reid was also blocked by more than a dozen Democrats, two of whom now face close reelection races.

The proposed amendment would have added to the deficit, McConnell's office noted, while a related amendment introduced by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, was completely offset.

Reid's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry from HuffPost. They did, however, send out an additional statement Tuesday afternoon touting the support of leaders from various third party groups including Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, and Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

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Amid some calls by the Republican party to reform Social Security, 136 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama on Monday, pledging to oppose any recommendations issued by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that would cut Social Security benefits, further raise the retirement age or privatize the Social Security program in any way.

The letter, which garnered support from over half of the Democratic caucus, was spearheaded by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.). In a statement to HuffPost, Rep. Grijalva said:

"Leaving millions insecure, and millions more below the poverty line, is not good policy and it's certainly not something Democrats should be tinkering with on the mistaken assumption that it's fiscally responsible. Cuts now would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility. That's why we sent this letter, and that's why we want the president and the whole country to hear us loud and clear. We're here to protect Social Security for future generations, pure and simple. If anyone wants to explain why cutting it makes sense for the American people, let's hear the argument. We still haven't heard one."

The same day, in an effort led by Kentucky Senate hopeful Jack Conway, more than 200 Democratic candidates for Congress signed a petition to oppose any cuts or alterations to Social Security benefits, HuffPost's Sam Stein reports.

A recent survey showed that 95% of AARP members say it's important that a political candidate pledge to protect Social Security as a guaranteed life-long benefit. The findings were true across party lines, with 94 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats affirming that such a pledge is important.

Grijalva has said of Social Security: "I really think instinctively it should be one of the cornerstones of the Democratic Party and politically it should be something that people reassure their constituents about their position on."

That's a sentiment matched by Democratic leaders as well. The party has taken every opportunity to drive home their support for the program, from lengthy celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Social Security to attack ads blasting Republicans for talk of privatization.

On Friday it was announced that more than 58 million seniors and other Social Security recipients will see no inflation adjustment in their retirement and disability benefits for the second year in a row. There has been very little inflation over the past year and prices have remained flat.

Still Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders have vowed to pass a $250 cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries when Congress reconvenes in November.

In a message Monday, Reid's office framed the debate in partisan terms:

"Millions of seniors rely on Social Security to make ends meet, especially in today's troubled economy. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration has announced that no cost-of- living adjustment will be provided next year. That is why Democrats are determined to give seniors a badly-needed raise, which Republicans already blocked earlier this year."

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