WASHINGTON -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Thursday from criticism he has received from some liberal groups that he hasn't taken a strong enough stance against cuts to Social Security.
Several liberal groups have raised questions about supportive statements Van Hollen, now a candidate for Senate in Maryland, made about a deficit reduction proposal that called for raising the retirement age and reducing cost of living adjustments to seniors.
"I have every confidence in Mr. Van Hollen," Pelosi said Thursday when asked about the criticism. "He's gone to the table bringing values of our caucus to the negotiating table under any one of these configurations. And in every case, quite frankly, he has been the champion on these issues -- but again, a value that he shares with the other candidates who are running as well."
Pelosi said virtually all of the Democratic candidates -- and potential candidates -- share that view, specifically naming Reps. Donna F. Edwards, Elijah E. Cummings and John Delaney. Edwards and Van Hollen are the only two, so far, who have said they will seek the seat being left open by retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
The groups, such as MoveOn.Org and Social Security Works, have voiced concerns about past statements from Van Hollen suggesting the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction recommendations made in 2010 could provide a "framework" for a grand bargain on spending and taxes.
Van Hollen did not specifically endorse the proposal and, as the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, he fought several of the provisions related to Social Security.
"Well, he wasn't talking about Simpson Bowles. He talked about the 'framework' of Simpson Bowles," Pelosi said. "Almost every member of the delegation is looking at the race and I think all of them subscribe to strengthening Medicare as they did in the Affordable Care Act and preserving Social Security -- prolonging the life of both of them. "
Nick Berning, a spokesman for MoveOn.Org, said the group disagreed with Pelosi in this instance.
"You can't be a teetotaler while swigging moonshine, and you can't be a Social Security champion while supporting Simpson-Bowles," Berning said in a statement. "Rep. Van Hollen can put questions about his position to rest by publicly committing to vote against any budget deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits."