Washington -- Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, has begun exploring alternative strategies other than diverting payroll taxes to finance the Social Security system.

McCrery's remarks came on the heels of comments by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who alluded to the fact that in order to achieve reform on Social Security, the GOP would have to find other ways to finance privatization than through the current 12.4 percent Social Security tax.

Last week, Thomas raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill by maintaining that partisan warfare would render any plan that President Bush comes up with, a "dead horse."

Bush is expected to reveal a portion of his plan to privatize the 70-year-old program via personal investment accounts in his Feb. 2 State of the Union address. Republican lawmakers have suggested that a new approach would have to be taken to reach a compromise on both sides of the aisle.

Thomas added that lawmakers should discuss whether Social Security benefits should differ for men and women, because women live longer. He also said the system might consider the need for blue-collar workers to retire younger than office workers.

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