WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), a leading voice in the argument over the future of Social Security, has agreed to debate progressive critics who argue that the program can be reformed and strengthened without reducing future benefits.
The debate challenge was issued by a collection of young people associated with the liberal group Social Security Works, and delivered in a YouTube video provided to HuffPost.
Responding to the challenge, Simpson told HuffPost he wouldn't debate the group if it insisted on characterizing his position as in favor of cuts, but if the conversation was centered on the 75-year solvency of the program, he was willing to do it.
Simpson was the co-chair of the so-called Simpson-Bowles Commission, along with Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles, a former top Democrat with the Clinton administration.
"All they have to do is read the [Bowles-Simpson] report and it tells you exactly what we plan to do with Social Security. It's very clear. If they'll read the report, then I'll talk to them. I want them to read the 67-page report, especially what it says about Social Security and making it solvent for people their age," Simpson said. "But if they want to know how to save the system so that when they're 65 they won't get a check for 25 percent less, yes, I can try to help them."
The young advocates challenging Simpson on Social Security say in the video that they have read the Bowles-Simpson report. (Its section on Social Security is short.)
The report did not receive the required number of votes from commission members to move forward to Congress, though it has been politically resurrected in recent months.
The controversial and plainspoken Simpson said he was worried that the debate was "just gonna be a bunch of emotional claptrap" but emphasized again that he was willing to do it.
Simpson's willingness to debate shouldn't come as a surprise, as the Wyoming Republican rarely shies away from defending his position. In the past, he has engaged HuffPost over the question of life expectancy and its relationship to the funding gap for programs like Social Security.
No date or venue has yet been set for the debate. But if it's anything like Simpson's typical performance, it'll be entertaining, and perhaps enlightening.
Look through some of Simpson's history of colorful statements below: