By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - U.S. Reps. John Boehner and Steve Chabot, speaking this week to a gathering of Butler County business people, emphasized the importance of revamping the nation's Medicare and Social Security systems.
"They aren't sustainable as they are today," Mr. Boehner said.
Mr. Boehner of West Chester said he believes Congress will approve legislation next year that would overhaul Medicare and make prescription drugs more affordable to the financially strapped elderly.
"Medicare is on the front burner for next year," he said.
The two Republican congressmen and Ohio Rep. Scott Nein, R-Middletown, discussed a variety of issues during their speeches Friday to a breakfast gathering at the Cincinnati Marriott North sponsored by five Butler County chambers of commerce.
Mr. Chabot, whose House district added four southwestern Butler County townships in the redrawing of Congressional district boundaries, said the 1.5 percent return on the country's Social Security investment won't support the many baby boomers who will retire in the next 10 years.
"It's not enough to save the system and not enough of a return on the investment," he said.
He favors allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security withholdings instead of having the government invest it all.
"I have more faith in people to invest their money than the government," Mr. Chabot said.
But Mr. Boehner said political considerations probably will prevent Congress from acting on any Social Security legislation before the next presidential election.
Other topics the two congressmen discussed were:
Tax cuts: Mr. Chabot said he supports permanent tax cuts to help invigorate the nation's economy.
"We need to accelerate those tax cuts and make them permanent," he said. "We need to get more money back in people's pockets." He also wants to abolish the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax.
Next year's federal budget: "The budget will be a big challenge," Mr. Boehner said. "We have to find a way to meet the needs of the country without pushing it further into debt."
The war against terrorism: Mr. Boehner said he believes the risk of America going to war with Iraq is "relatively low" because Iraqi leaders know the U.S. is prepared for war.
America must make sure that Iraq has no biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, he said.
"Looking the other way is not the way to make the world a safer place," Mr. Boehner said.
He said the fight against terrorism must be a relentless, day-to-day pursuit for the next 10 years.
Both Mr. Boehner and Mr. Chabot cautioned against assuming the GOP's legislative proposals will win easy approval now that Republicans have taken control of the U.S. Senate from the Democrats.
They pointed out that legislation can be filibustered to death in the Senate unless it has the support of 60 senators that force it to a vote. The Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.
"The change in the Senate won't be a panacea," Mr. Boehner said.
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