Obama, on a Midwest bus tour this week, said Democrats have to be “flexible” when it comes to spending on Social Security and Medicare.

But if the committee did want to take on Social Security, what would need to happen?

Craig Jennings, a federal fiscal policy director at OMB Watch, a nonprofit that monitors federal spending, said there are two ways to close the gap between Social Security’s expenditures and its revenues: increase the payroll tax or lower current benefits.

How do you cut benefits? Raising the retirement age is one way, Jennings said. Changing the way inflation is measured for automatic annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments is another. Both methods would allow Congress to preserve much of the existing program.

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