Deficit-reduction proposals being discussed by the Clinton administration are finding plenty of congressional critics but few proponents. One House leader suggested yesterday that even modest savings in Social Security would be difficult.
The Senate's chief tax writer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York, said Sunday that freezing Social Security benefits would be "a death wish" that should be quickly discarded.
Senator Moynihan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said on "This Week With David Brinkley" that he was willing to discuss other tax ideas such as limiting home-mortgage deductions or taxing employer-provided health insurance in the context of a broader health-reform package. He did not say he would push for any of them.
Moynihan said he favors a proposal for a broad-based energy tax now gaining favor among Clinton advisers. But he opposes a proposal that the annual Social Security cost-of-living increase, or COLA, be canceled for at least a year.
Robert Michel of Illinois, the House Republican leader, was asked yesterday about such a freeze on annual cost-of-living increases. "We had budget considerations on that in the past...and we couldn't get that adopted," Mr. Michel said on "Fox Morning News," recalling past efforts to tamper with Social Security and the ensuing public outcry.
But Robert Dole of Kansas, the Senate Republican leader, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that he preferred reducing the cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients by 1 or 2 percentage points rather than boosting taxes on those benefits.
Senator Dole said much of the burden of many proposed tax changes would likely fall on the middle class.
"Absolutely, that's not the way to go," Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi said of the mortgage proposal. Interviewed with Moynihan, he said: "If you start talking about mortgage deductions that has an impact on home building, that's an important part of the economy." He said the government should first look at spending cuts.