Top Democrats are trying to ward off a return to an old battle over government retirement benefits.

President Bush has indicated that he hopes to make setting up private Social Security accounts a priority after the November elections.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the most senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, have written a letter to the president asking him to give up on the privatization proposal.

“We understand that you and most Republicans genuinely believe in privatization and remain strongly committed to pursuing this approach,” Reid and Baucus write in the letter. “However, we want to make clear that Democrats are just as adamantly opposed to privatization and remain strongly committed to defeating this seriously misguided proposal. We believe the American people are on our side in this debate, and for good reason.”

Creating privatized Social Security accounts would weaken funding for the core defined benefits and could saddle future generations of Americans with trillions of dollars in additional debt, Reid and Baucus argue.