THE BLOG
10/19/2010 01:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Flores Says Headache Caused Verbal Gaffe

Two weeks before Election Day, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.) is capitalizing on Republican rival Bill Flores' verbal blunder regarding the Social Security retirement age.

In a call with reporters, the incumbent continued to hammer Flores for supporting a higher retirement age--a statement Flores now calls a headache-induced mistake.

"I believe that seniors in this district deserve an honest answer from Mr. Flores, not the headache excuse that nobody is going to believe," Edwards said during the call. "I don't think seniors are going to buy into the headache excuse."

Edwards and Flores were asked separately during interviews for a Dallas television show if they agreed that the retirement age should be raised to 70.

"I'd have to look at what the actual economics are," was Flores' response. "I'm not philosophically opposed to raising the retirement age."

Flores, 56, also said that Social Security needs to be shored up financially or there won't be anything there by the time he reaches retirement age.

"And I accept the fact I may have to raise my retirement age for that," he said.

Two days after the interview Flores called WFAA-TV host Brad Watson and sought to retract his statement, claiming his headache caused him to misspeak.

"Instead of saying, 'I am philosophically opposed to raising the age,' I misspoke and said I'm not philosophically opposed," Flores, a retired energy executive from Bryan, Texas, said in an interview this morning with WTAW-AM in College Station.

Edwards, who is fighting for his political life in what many call one of the most contentious Congressional races in the country, has vehemently opposed raising the retirement age as well as privatizing Social Security.

He said Flores' answer has zero credibility because after he voiced his support for raising the retirement age, he went on to explain his reasoning.

"The difference between Mr. Flores and me on the issue of raising the Social Security retirement age is that I have always strongly opposed it, and with Mr. Flores, it depends on what day of the week you talk to him," Edwards said.

The 17th Congressional district in Texas has 118,084 current beneficiaries of Social Security, 81,896 of which are age 65 and older. Edwards believes it would be a disservice to those individuals to raise the retirement age any higher than 67.

"There are many people in our district who just simply could not physically work until the age of 70," he said. "Allowing an increase would put a lot of people in their sixties in our district at risk financially."

Though Edwards continually emphasized his opposition to raising the retirement age, he had few concrete solutions of his own for Social Security, instead citing that the Social Security Trust Fund is viable until 2037 and that Medicare should be the priority.

"I don't think we should ignore the long-term demographics of Social Security, but we're not in a crisis today in regards to it," Edwards said. "An important national commission on fiscal responsibility and reform will be coming out with its recommendations soon, and we ought to listen to those and determine what's the responsible way to protect Social Security."

Flores continues to insist that his verbal misstep should not be taken as his true position on Social Security policy.

"Voters should be assured that I absolutely do not support raising the retirement age for Social Security," he said in a statement.