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President Bush Calls on Moderate Republicans to Support Social Security Reforms

By Associated Press

Rochester, NY – President Bush, facing an uphill battle on Social Security in Congress, worked Tuesday to persuade moderate Republicans to resist pressure from constituents and support his ideas for changing the nation's retirement system.

"I fully recognize some in Washington, you know, don't particularly want to address this issue," Bush said in an auditorium at Greece Athena Middle and High School. I recognize some of them say, `Well, this is, this is a partisan thing. You know, we don't want to make one party look good at the expense of another."

Moderate Republicans like those Bush targeted here in New York could end up being the swing votes he needs to get Congress to approve his ideas for addressing the system's solvency problems and let younger workers set up their own retirement accounts.

"I think more and more people recognize there's a problem and people are going to say `Go do something about it.' And those who obstruct reform no matter what party they're in will pay a political price, in my judgment," Bush said.

Democrats say Bush and the Republicans are trying to destroy the program and shift it from one providing a guaranteed government benefit to one in which workers manage their own benefits subject to the fluctuations of the stock market.

To pressure moderate Republicans in New York to split with their party, Democrats have dispatched volunteers to organize town hall meetings and are distributing flyers to constituents in districts represented by Republicans who are taking a wait-and-see attitude about changing Social Security.

Coinciding with the president's visit, the AARP launched a statewide petition drive to urge its 2.5 million members in New York to send postcards to members of Congress encouraging them to reform Social Security, but avoid setting up private accounts that the group feels would weaken the program.