Slash Social Security to Pay for War? Dems Slam Boehner for Remark He Denies

Democrats are slamming House Minority Leader John Boehner for reportedly saying the Social Security retirement age should be raised to pay for the war in Afghanistan -- though Boehner's office vehemently denies he made that connection.

The comment came during an interview Monday with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boehner said the retirement age should be raised to 70 for those at least 20 years away from retirement and suggested wealthy taxpayers should not be receiving benefits at all.

"I think we need to look at the American people and explain to them that we're broke," Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

Though a video clip of his Social Security comments does not include any reference to Afghanistan, the newspaper's article on the interview said Boehner cast the changes as a way to pay for the war.

Democrats seized on the interview, accusing Boehner of wanting to pay for war on the backs of seniors. Ohio House Democrats held a press conference Wednesday to denounce Boehner, with Rep. Marcy Kaptur calling it "un-American" to cut Social Security.

"The House Republican Leader John Boehner and his GOP colleagues want to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 and cut benefits in order to pay for George Bush's war and their failed policies of the past," House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said in a written statement. "Democrats will not stand for this."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office put out a "fact sheet" accusing Boehner of wanting to "slash" Social Security not to stabilize the program, but to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan - though Iraq was not mentioned anywhere in the Tribune-Review article.

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler called on her state's Republican congressmen to "renounce" Boehner's comments, accusing him of looking to "break America's promise to her seniors."

However, Boehner's aides say the claims are false and that he never made any connection between Social Security changes and war funding.

Further, the idea of raising the retirement age is a bipartisan one. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a speech last week that the change should be considered. The bipartisan commission appointed by President Obama to recommend ways to reduce the debt and close the deficit is also looking at the option. That commission is meeting Wednesday.

Asked about Hoyer's comment on Wednesday, Ohio Democratic Rep. Zack Space said: "Well, sometimes the majority leader gets things wrong too."