WASHINGTON - Senate Republican leaders are considering whether to seek Democratic support for Social Security legislation without the personal accounts sought by President Bush, aiming to restore them later, officials said Thursday.
Any such move would mark a tactical shift and could anger the White House, which is in the midst of a campaign to sell Bush's approach to the public.
The internal discussions among top Senate Republicans come at a time when the drive to overhaul Social Security - the centerpiece of Bush's agenda - appears stalled. Democrats routinely attack Bush's proposed accounts as privatization and adamantly resist the idea of including them in any legislation designed to shore up the program's finances.
With public opinion polls showing uneven support for Bush's plan, Republicans have yet to coalesce behind a proposal of their own.
In the House, majority Republicans are also proceeding with caution on the issue, concerned about possible political repercussions in the 2006 midterm elections.
Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the GOP whip, declined this week to set a timetable for action, although he said the leadership remains committed to passing legislation this year.
Bush urged Congress in January to approve legislation that would create permanent financial solvency for Social Security, and include an option for younger workers to set aside a portion of their payroll tax for personal investment.
In exchange, all workers younger than 55 would receive lower benefits than they are now guaranteed under the law.