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Thursday February 11th, 2016 1:37AM

Open Congress' retirement to all workers

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Younger workers would face higher retirement ages but all Americans could join federal retirement accounts in a plan proposed Tuesday by Sen. Marco Rubio in his latest in a series of national policy prescriptions.

Rubio, a first-term Republican senator from Florida who is weighing a presidential bid, planned a speech Tuesday on how older Americans would fare in retirement. He was proposing an overhaul of federal programs to help younger workers save for their retirement, as well as protect programs for older voters who had assumed those programs would be there after they ended their careers. The Associated Press obtained excerpts from Rubio's speech in advance.

"Partisan politics in America has always been contentious. But throughout our history, on issues of generational importance, our leaders have agreed to put aside politics for the sake of our people," Rubio said in remarks prepared for delivery. "If ever there was an issue worthy of this solidarity, preserving a secure retirement for 21st century seniors is that issue."

Rubio is working to build his policy credentials after a bipartisan immigration plan he helped push through the Senate stalled in the House. Trying to shake that sting and looking ahead to an expected 2016 campaign, Rubio has turned to policy proposals on poverty, higher education and economic growth in recent speeches.

Rubio's retirement prescriptions come just days after he had a private audience with the Republican National Committee in Memphis, Tennessee, and made his first trip to early-nominating New Hampshire as a potential White House contender.

At the same time, Rubio has been bulking up his political team and working to help candidates on the ballots in 2014, including those in Iowa, which hosts the lead-off presidential caucuses.

Rubio's speech promises that his plan would not affect older Americans, who are nervous as they approach retirement. With so many retirees and those near retirement as constituents in senior-rich Florida, Rubio is mindful of their interests as he prepares for the national political stage.

Should he bypass a presidential run, Rubio's policy proposals would not hurt his chances at Senate re-election in 2016.

Rubio is proposing making the federal retirement program that Congress uses available beyond government employees. His proposal would make it easier for workers whose employers don't offer retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and other investment programs. Rubio's systems would make it easier for lower- and middle-class voters to plan for their older years.

"Opening Congress' retirement plan to the American people will allow us to bring the prospect of a secure, comfortable and independent retirement into reach of millions of people," Rubio said.

But Rubio's plan would also increase the retirement age for younger workers - who are expected to live longer - while protecting those aged 55 and over. Older workers could still expect to retire as they had planned.

"The answer is to gradually increase the retirement age for future retirees to account for the rise in life expectancy," Rubio said.

His plan would also suspend the Social Security payroll taxes on those aged 65 or older who continue to work. That move could help him appeal to older workers of all types who choose to stay on the job after they are eligible to receive retirement benefits.

"These seniors have already paid their fair share, and we shouldn't punish them for choosing to keep working rather than immediately cashing in," Rubio said.
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