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Democrats: Personal Social Security Accounts a Non-Starter

Social Security (search) reform will be the number one item of President Bush's domestic agenda in the State of the Union address Wednesday night. But while the president formulates his plan, some Democrats say any proposal to create personal savings accounts will go nowhere.

Nonetheless, one Democratic representative joined a Republican colleague Tuesday to offer a plan that would include private investment accounts.

"Ours is the only, and I would stress this, the only bipartisan bill in Congress," said Rep. Jim Kolbe (search), R-Ariz.

The plan by Kolbe and Rep. Allen Boyd (search), D-Fla., would allow individuals to set aside a little more than 2 percent of their Social Security taxes and put them into investment accounts that individuals would own.

"The whole concept is it's your money. You pay taxes and you should have control, something you do not have with Social Security," Kolbe said.

Implementing personal savings accounts under the Kolbe-Boyd plan would require borrowing about $600 billion over 10 years, less than estimates of $1 trillion to $2 trillion offered by analysts projecting the cost of the administration's plan.

Also, the representatives' plan would actually increase benefits for low-income workers with a guaranteed minimum to keep them above the poverty line.

"Actually, under our bill low-income workers do better than they do under the current system. Anyone who works a normal lifetime will get 120 percent of poverty level," Boyd said. "That's on top of whatever money is earned in the personal savings account."

To meet that promise, wealthier taxpayers would get smaller payouts from the system than is currently promised.

Kolbe said he expected some elements of this plan to be reflected in the president's proposal.

"I'm confident that many of the elements you're hearing about here today will ultimately be, not only in the president's proposal, but what gets enacted into law," he said.

But over on the Senate side, Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the president's Social Security reforms won't go anywhere.

"President Bush should forget about privatizing Social Security. It will not happen. And the sooner he comes to that realization the better off we are," Reid said.

House Democratic leaders are trying to discourage support from their ranks for any reforms, and they are getting help from AARP (search), labor unions and the political group MoveOn.org, which has launched a television ad criticizing any cuts to the current payout plan.

"Call Allen Boyd and tell him no," the ad ends.

Republicans are not lying down, however. The Republican National Committee (search) has launched a "war room" for daily discussions with allies, volunteers have started a letter-writing campaign and Bush plans to head out on a five-state tour after his State of the Union address. All the places he is visiting are represented by Senate Democrats who the GOP thinks might be pressured into supporting the Bush plan.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jim Angle.