Social Security has been a remarkable success since its establishment more than 70 years ago. I understand that nearly 50 percent of today's seniors would be living in poverty were it not for our Social Security system. We have an obligation to ensure that retirees continue to receive the benefits that they were promised, while also guaranteeing that the program will be there for future generations. President Bush has indicated that he wants to privatize Social Security. I oppose that plan because it would increase our national debt and result in benefit cuts for our seniors. It will be several decades before Social Security experiences a shortfall. However, we should plan accordingly and act to preserve the soundness of Social Security for future generations. Congress also must work to protect the integrity of Medicare for both today's and tomorrow's seniors. With the Medicare Trust Fund forecast to become insolvent by 2018, Congress must make important decisions to protect Medicare's fiscal health.
Medicare should be allowed to harness the bargaining power of its 37 million beneficiaries to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs. One of my first acts as your representative in Washington was to vote for passage of legislation that would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices for seniors participating in the Medicare prescription drug program.
Working together, Democrats and Republicans can strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations. With that goal in mind, I will carefully review any common sense proposal to make sure we get things right.