An independent Senate candidate in South Dakota said during an interview Wednesday night that National Journal misquoted him when, in a story published last year, it said he supported gradually raising Social Security's retirement age and reducing benefits to beneficiaries.
But a review of a taped recording of National Journal's conversation with Larry Pressler, a former three-term Republican senator, shows that he did advocate for both.
In a story published by the Argus Leader, Pressler said he supported a plan to make high-income earners pay a small extra fee to make Social Security more sustainable.
"If we don't do something like that, we would have to raise the retirement age, which I am not in favor of doing," he said.
Asked by the newspaper why that account differed from the one written in National Journal, Pressler denied he ever advocated raising the program's age.
"I was clearly misquoted," he said.
But in an interview with National Journal last November, Pressler explained that the rationale for his candidacy "“ at least at the time "“ was reducing the national deficit with a so-called "grand bargain." That meant Republicans needed to accept higher tax rates while Democrats agreed to social spending cuts.
"You're talking about raising the retirement age over a 15-year period?" National Journal asked.
"Yes," responded Pressler, who served as a volunteer on Fix the Debt, a corporate-backed group that advocated both entitlement cuts and higher taxes as a way to reduce the deficit.
Later, a reporter asked again if he had correctly understood that the former senator wanted to gradually increase the Social Security retirement age.
"That is correct," he said.
Pressler plainly thought that the entitlement program was unsustainable in the long-run.
"We don't have enough money to sustain Social Security and certain retirement programs as we're now proceeding," he said. He also said he supported implementing the so-called chained CPI, which would reduce payments to beneficiaries by calculating a lower rate of inflation.
During the November 2013 interview, Pressler expressed confusion over whether Congress and President Obama and Congress had agreed to implement chained CPI. They had not.
Times have changed for Pressler since he sat down for an interview in a restaurant near the National Journal's Washington newsroom. Then, he was unsure if he would even run for South Dakota's Senate seat and joked that if he won, he'd "demand a recount."
Nearly a year later, Pressler once quixotic bid has suddenly become one that could determine which party could control the Senate majority. Both Republicans and Democrats have made late, million-dollar investments in the state after polls showed a tight three-way race among Pressler, Republican nominee Mike Rounds and Democratic nominee Rick Weiland.