WASHINGTON–Prompt action on restoring the long-term solvency of the Social Security system would be “prudent,” the Comptroller General of the U.S. told a packed house at the House Ways and Means Committee today.[@@]

Clearly staying away from the “crisis” language that is creating trouble for Republicans seeking a prompt revamp of the system, David M. Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, specifically said that the Social Security system is not in immediate danger. But, he said, “it faces a serious solvency and sustainability challenge as time passes.”

In his opening statement, panel chairman William Thomas, R-Calif., said, “I do want to remind members as we move forward that retirement security in an aging society does not depend on Social Security alone. Personal savings, pensions, health care, especially long term and chronic care, each play a central role in helping seniors meet their needs.”

Democrats on the committee were adamant that any hopes for bipartisanship will be elusive unless President Bush and Republican congressional leadership drop their demands for creating private accounts.

Meanwhile, new Republican polling data shows “there is a rejection of the term ?crisis’ as an accurate description of the state of the Social Security system, and this rejection increases in intensity as the respondents get older.”

The analysis was based on 14 focus groups held last month in scattered locations paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House GOP, according to a report by the Associated Press.