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Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is planning legislation to create an 18-member commission to recommend ways to keep Social Security solvent.

With appointees divided among President Obama, the House and Senate, the panel would have 180 days to draft a plan to ensure the system will be able to meet its financial obligations to retirees, their spouses and children, and disabled Americans for the next 75 years.

A report last year predicted that the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in 2033 after which payroll taxes will cover only about 75 percent of promised benefits without changes to the system.

The legislation Sen. Durbin expects to introduce in the coming months will require 14 votes for the commission to agree on a plan to put before Congress for expedited approval. Sen. Durbin told the Wall Street Journal that his intent was to remove Social Security reform from the deficit reduction talks over taxes and other entitlement programs, but such commissions have a dismal record.

The Simpson-Bowles commission charged with drafting a deficit reduction plan in 2011 could not agree on a proposal to send Congress. In 2001, President Bush appointed a commission to investigate changes to Social Security. President Clinton’s bipartisan commission on entitlement reform including Medicare ended without any policy recommendations.

The need for reform is well-established. So are the possible changes, such as eliminating the earnings limit, changing how inflation is measured and shifting to a privatized system. What is needed is the political courage to tackle the problem.

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