Lame Duck Social Security cuts: Take action now

UPDATE: The “whipcount” page showing who has committed to No Cuts is now at Huffington Post as well. This will be the new permanent location. (The page at will not be deleted, but be sure to check Huffington Post for the latest information.

I’m creating this as a reference post for those taking action to protect Social Security during the coming Lame Duck Congress. It contains practical take-action steps from this earlier post and adds in Senate names and phone number for easy access. As the planning evolves, I’ll update this post accordingly.

The 2013 cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for Social Security was recently announced, and it’s woefully low — 1.7%. Yet after this much damage to the safety net, Obama is expected to attempt further cuts in the lame duck Congress, including “chained CPI” reductions to the already inadequate COLA. Here’s the action plan.

Strategy — what’s being done, what you can do

Things are heating up on this. The basics are these three items:

▪ It’s a safe bet Obama wants this. He’s been angling for something like Simpson-Bowles for years. In fact, Simpson-Bowles is his commission. (For more on why I say this with such certainty, click here.)

▪ Unless the Dems take the House, there are only two places this can be stopped — at the White House and in the Senate. The White House is likely — but not certainly — a lost cause (see above). In addition, Sen. Whitehouse said last month that if Obama doesn’t take a strong stand, many Dem senators won’t either. I take that as a request from Mr. Whitehouse, in public, for Obama to do what he fears Obama won’t do. More confirmation of the first point.

▪ In the Senate, Bernie Sanders has marshalled 29 Democrats who will “oppose including Social Security cuts … in any deficit reduction package.” He, they and 96 activist organizations are organizing a resistance to this lame duck catastrophe.

The primary pressure point is in the Senate. (In my view, there’s potentially a second one in the White House, but I’ll save that for a later post.) Thus, applying pressure means doing these four actions:

1. Raise a constant and public stink about this. There are many actions being planned. You can start by signing Sen. Sanders’ petition here. This petition is now the central collection point for citizen names. Over 17,000 people like yourself have already signed. Later there will be organized actions around the country, and you can help out. (Updated: Earlier there was more than one petition. Sanders is now the main one.)

2. Barrage the 29 senators who signed Bernie Sanders letter, asking them (firmly but politely) to keep their word (see names and phone numbers below). We need them to go for the win and not the show. I know they are already being courageous by bucking the leader of their own party. (There’s a real price for this kind of opposition.) And if cutthroat use of Senate rules can’t produce a win, there’s no point in taking it down that road.

But if cutthroat use of Senate rules can produce a win, ask them to use the power they have to accomplishtheir own goal. Remind them that there are 29 of them, a large enough group to provide some protection against the inevitable Dem retaliation. Remind them that both Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer (who many think wants to be the next Harry Reid) signed the letter. The ask:

If this is really as important as you say it is, stand together for strength and go for the win. Take risks for the people you’re protecting.

You can call as many of these senators as you like, and you don’t need permission. Be sure to start by thanking them. They’re the ones who got this going.

3. Barrage the non-signing senators with questions and complaints (see names and phone numbers below). Some are up for re-election this year. Some are even self-branded “progressives” (for example, Amy Klobuchar, whose helpful staff can be reached at 202-224-3244). Be polite, but make it uncomfortable for them to stay off the team.

You can call as many as you like, and you don’t need permission.

4. Report your results so that what you do has resonance and amplification. There will be a whip-count page at Campaign for America’s Future in the next couple of days. I’ll edit this post with the address when it’s live. To report, simply email the results of your senatorial communication to:

[email protected]

There are many people doing this, but it’s all uphill. Please help the effort. Just four steps will get started. (UPDATE: The whipcount page that shows who’s been contacted is here. Check it for updates.)

Your list of signing senators

These senators are signers of the Bernie Sanders letter. These are the good ones who need your encouragement. Phone numbers are provided below. Additional office numbers can be found here. (If you see errors in this list, please let me know in the comments.)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — (202) 224-5141
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — (202) 224-2921
Mark Begich (D-AK) — (202) 224-3004
Al Franken (D-MN) — (202) 224-5641

Other signers:
Harry Reid (D-NV) — (202) 224-3542
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — (202) 224-6542
Jack Reed (D-RI) — (202) 224-4642
Sherrod Brown ((D-OH) — (202) 224-2315
Ron Wyden (D-OR) — (202) 224-5244
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — (202) 224-4242
Ben Cardin (D-MD) — (202) 224-4524
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — (202) 224-4822
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — (202) 224-2823
Tom Harkin (D-IA) — (202) 224-3254
Jeff Merkley (D-OR) — (202) 224-3753
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) — (202) 224-3224
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) — (202) 224-4654
Patty Murray (D-WA) — (202) 224-2621
Barbara Boxer (D-CA) — (202) 224-3553
Maria Cantwell (D-WA) — (202) 224-3441
Daniel Akaka (D-HI) — (202) 224-6361
Tim Johnson (D-SD) — (202) 224-5842
John Rockefeller (D-WV) — (202) 224-6472
Daniel Inouye (D-HI) — (202) 224-3934
Tom Udall (D-NM) — (202) 224-6621
Robert Menendez (D-NJ) — (202) 224-4744
Carl Levin (D-MI) — (202) 224-6221
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — (202) 224-4451
Joe Manchin (D-WV) — (202) 224-3954

Your list of non-signing senators

These Democratic senators have so far refused to sign Sen. Sanders letter. These are the bad ones who need a talking to. Phone numbers are provided below. Additional office numbers can be found here. (If you see errors in either of this list, please let me know in the comments.)

Roll-Over Dems
Max Baucus (CostumeDem–MT) — term ends in 2014 — (202) 224-2651
Michael Bennet (CostumeDem–CO) — term ends in 2016 — (202) 224-5852
Jeff Bingaman (CostumeDem–NM) — retiring this year — (202) 224-5521
Tom Carper (CostumeDem–DE) — running this year — (202) 224-2441
Bob Casey (CostumeDem–PA) — running this year — (202) 224-6324
Kent Conrad (CostumeDem–ND) — retiring this year — (202) 224-2043
Chris Coons (CostumeDem–DE) — term ends after 2014 — (202) 224-5042
■ Dick Durbin (CostumeDem–IL) — term ends after 2014 — (202) 224-2152
Dianne Feinstein (CostumeDem–CA) — running this year — (202) 224-3841

Kay Hagan (CostumeDem–NC) — term ends after 2014 — (202) 224-6342
■ John Kerry (CostumeDem–MA) — term ends after 2014 — (202) 224-2742
■ Amy Klobuchar (CostumeDem–MN) — running this year — (202) 224-3244
Herb Kohl (CostumeDem–WI) — retiring this year — (202) 224-5653
Mary Landrieu (CostumeDem–LA) — running in 2014 — (202) 224-5824
Joe Lieberman (“Independent”–Pits of Hell) — retiring to Pits of Hell — (202) 224-4041
■ Claire McCaskill (CostumeDem–MO) — running this year — (202) 224-6154
Ben Nelson (CostumeDem–NE) — retiring this year — (202) 224-6551
■ Bill Nelson (CostumeDem–FL) — running this year — (202) 224-5274
Mark Pryor (CostumeDem–AR) — running in 2014 — (202) 224-2353
Jeanne Shaheen (CostumeDem–NH) — running in 2014 — (202) 224-2841
Jon Tester (CostumeDem–MT) — running this year — (202) 224-2644
Mark Udall (CostumeDem–CO) — running in 2014 — (202) 224-5941
Mark Warner (CostumeDem–VA) — running in 2014 — (202) 224-2023
Jim Webb (CostumeDem–VA) — retiring this year — (202) 224-4024

Senators listed in bold are running for re-election this year. Those in italics are frequent Obama surrogates. The ■ bulleted ones have some degree of “liberal cred” — at least among those who don’t know better — which they use to fundraise and to get on MSNBC. (For more on who might replace the retirees, see here.)

For my money, you can start with MSNBC frequent guest Amy Klobuchar — (202) 224-3244. But that’s just me — I was both surprised and disappointed to see her in this list. And she’s running this year.

Bottom line

In my view, all four actions are needed. This is a media education effort; a raise a stink effort; and a whip the Senate effort. The stink raises the heat under the senators. Communicating with your senators — even over-communicating with them — also raises the heat. And don’t forget to report back. Your call pushes them. Your report multiples the effect of your call and encourages the rest of us. Ultimately, should these cuts be proposed, we want them to die in the Senate if at all possible.

Rubinite neo-liberal dreams don’t collapse on their own, you know; they have to be killed. This is a good chance to show some progressive muscle, to grow our progressive coalition. We have Sanders and a good bunch of very good senators with us. A win would send a sweet message, don’t you think? Let’s not waste the opportunity to send that message.

And thanks to you all for your work.

(Updated to correct my sloppy editing and to feature the Sanders citizens’ petition.)


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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33 Responses to “Lame Duck Social Security cuts: Take action now”

  1. htfd says:

    Now that names have been named and the targets of action are all to visible, people can go after these Congressional Republican’s in Democrat clothing. Phone calls, petitions and most important, in person actions at their local offices. The only hope of pushing these people is to show up and face to face tell them what we want. Sure the Representatives and Senators will be hiding out in DC, but it’s at home where they serve their constituents and get voted into office. That’s where the most effective noise has to come from.

  2. htfd says:

    I fail to see the political strategy or common sense in not pushing issues before you vote, the peoples one and only big stick so to speak. Is this why all the Obama cheerleaders were deaf, dumb and blind on all the most import stuff and just concentrated on matters that concerned women’s rights and potential Supreme Court nominees? Not that they aren’t important, but not as important as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts that effect every last one of us…from birth to death. For all that can remember “Tricky Dick” and “Slick Willie”, well Obama is a combination of the worst of these two and must be handled with caution and his feet put to the fire. Now he’s back in, the only hope is Congress.

  3. JacquiRafiq says:

    You can call the main number 202-224-3121 and just ask for the senator or congressman you want to talk to. This is eaiser then having to check multiple numbers.

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