Washington (CNN) – On the day President Obama announced his vision for curbing the costs of entitlement programs and reining in the nation's deepening debt, three conservative Republican senators announced their plan to raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 70 while lowering monthly payments to upper-income retirees.
"There is no way in God's green Earth to save America from bankruptcy until you deal with entitlements," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. "Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, combined in the next twenty years, is going to absorb every dollar of revenue coming to this place. There will be no money left for anything else."
Under the plan, sponsored by Graham, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, the retirement age for full Social Security benefits would gradually increase to 70 in 2032. After that, the retirement age would be adjusted to match life expectancy. People who earned $43,000 or less on average over the years they worked would be exempt from means-testing while those who made more money would see their monthly payments lowered.
"Upper income Americans under our plan have to give up future benefits. Three, four hundred dollars a month," Graham said. "It's better for them to give up future benefits than it is to raise taxes on them now cause if you raise taxes on them now, some people will lose jobs."
Paul said the plan would keep Social Security solvent for generations without raising taxes or privatizing accounts. Both Paul and Graham support allowing private investment accounts as part of social security but acknowledge there's not enough support in Congress for that to pass.
"There's not enough votes for privatization and there's definitely not the votes for raising taxes," said Paul.
The Republicans' plan smacked into a political reality of its own this week, even before it was unveiled.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who controls the Senate floor, reiterated his belief that Social Security does not contribute to the nation's debt and therefore should not be part of the discussion on entitlement reform.
And in his speech Wednesday, Obama said, "Social Security is not the cause of our deficit" and while "it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older" it must be strengthened "without slashing benefits for future generations."