WASHINGTON – Congress will pass a Social Security (search) bill, and Democrats who stand in the way will be considered obstructionists by voters, the head of the Republican Party said Monday in an Associated Press interview.
In the end, Congress will approve a measure that includes personal investment accounts, Ken Mehlman (search) said. President Bush has been campaigning hard for the accounts in trips to many states.
"The reason I think we are going to get a bill is because the American public won't stand by and have Congress say, `We know it's a problem that only gets worse every single day and yet we're going to do nothing,"' said Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee (search).
A recent AP poll showed that a majority of Americans do not approve of Bush's handling of Social Security or support private investment accounts.
"We have a prediction of our own," said Democratic National Committee (search) spokesman Jano Cabrera. "Magic 8 Ball says overwhelmingly that the American people are opposed to private accounts. It predicts that the debate will shift to solvency, and working together Democrats and Republicans will extend Social Security solvency."
The creation of personal investment accounts is a top domestic priority for Bush. The Republican National Committee is trying to drum up support for the president's plan through its network of millions of party faithful.
In an interview with AP editors and reporters, Mehlman also said the Republican committee is gearing up for a possible Supreme Court nomination. He refused to reveal how much the RNC might spend on a Supreme Court campaign but said it would target individual Democrats who try to stand in the way of any Bush choice.
On other topics, Mehlman said:
-- It's not his job as head of the party to tell states whether they should allow same-sex couples to wed or form civil unions. "Certainly our platform states that the party is committed to ensuring that there is traditional marriage," he said, but he didn't think the party should take a position on state initiatives.
-- Several Republicans are considering a presidential run in 2008, including Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Mehlman said it was too early to discuss potential Democratic candidates. Asked about Hillary Clinton, he said he would take her "very seriously."
"If she were to run, she'd be a formidable candidate," he said.
While the Democrats are considering whether to change their presidential nominating system to give states other than Iowa and New Hampshire more influence in choosing the nominee, Mehlman said Republican rules don't give his party much flexibility.
Asked whether a different primary calendar on the Democratic side would pressure Republicans to change their system after the 2008 election, Mehlman quipped, "That's somebody else's problem." His term as chairman expires in 2006, although he said he hasn't decided whether he wants to stay on through 2008.