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Gingrich Favors Applying Surpluses to Social Security

By Eric Pianin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., Thursday endorsed President Clinton's call for using future budget surpluses to help shore up Social Security until Congress and the administration agree to a long-term plan for preserving the system against the tide of baby boomer retirements.

Gingrich said he favors treating the $218 billion of projected budget surpluses over the next five years as a "reserve fund" to relieve "any sense of anxiety" on the part of current or future retirees by guaranteeing their benefits.

"I'm willing to stipulate: Let's keep that surplus and apply it as a reserve fund for Social Security," Gingrich said after an appearance at a legislative conference of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the largest seniors group in the country.

However, the House speaker said that Republicans would insist upon tax cuts instead of the $135 billion to $150 billion of new spending over the next five years for education, child care, expanded health care and other programs that Clinton included in the his fiscal 1999 budget.

The administration has proposed using $65 billion of the proposed tobacco industry settlement and other revenue measures to offset the cost of the president's spending initiatives. At the same time, Clinton and his senior advisers have suggested it would be unwise to consider another round of major tax cuts until Congress and the administration address the long-term problems of Social Security.

"The president created a false syllogism by suggesting that it was either Social Security or a tax cut," Gingrich told reporters after the AARP speech. "We'll save the (surplus) money for Social Security and have the tax cut by not having new bureaucracies."

Gingrich's comments offered the first indication of a Republican strategy for responding to Clinton's new budget and his challenge to put the looming surpluses off-limits until they agree on how to shore up Social Security.