Nearly 10 months since President Bush first revealed his desire to include private accounts in Social Security reform - an effort that included a three-month, nationwide barnstorming campaign to drum up support - the administration is no closer to getting a proposal heard by Congress.

Two key advocates of the president's plan, however, said late last week that there's still a chance for Congress to address the topic of private accounts, but only if the bill doesn't contain any language or provisions that might threaten the current benefit structure.

Bush's controversial plan calls for upwards of 4% of a worker's payroll tax to be diverted into private accounts comprised of stock, bond and mutual funds. It would resemble the Thrift Savings Plan that's available to government employees. While the fund industry has remained silent on the issue - it could profit from management of the accounts - Democrats and powerful organizations like the AARP and AFL-CIO have roundly derided the idea.

But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) introduced legislation Thursday reassuring the benefits for people aged 55 and older. They think the guarantee will help push Bush's plan forward.

"The polls show a lot of anxiety among senior and near-term retirees about the ultimate solution," Santorum said in a report from CongressDaily. "From the standpoint of moving forward with reform, it takes these people off the table."

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan offered a less optimistic outlook. He declined to say whether Bush still wanted to meet his December deadline for passing Social Security reform, but didn't rule out the possibility for action in the coming weeks.

Bush, CongressDaily noted, has been awfully quiet about the issue since lawmakers returned from summer recess. Both legislative branches, however, have been mired in Hurricane Katrina relief. Bush did meet with his Social Security 2001 team last week, although it was behind closed doors and no questions were answered afterwards. Sources inside the meeting told the Capitol Hill publication that Bush did emphasize his desire to eventually getting a bill done.

Separately last week, special interest groups in opposition of and in favor of the president's plan said they would continue their awareness efforts.

The staff of Money Management Executive ("MME") has prepared these capsule summaries based on reports published by the news sources to which they are attributed. Those news sources are not associated with MME, and have not prepared, sponsored, endorsed, or approved these summaries.

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