CLEVELAND--On the day that legislative action on Social Security privatization began in the U.S. Senate, concerned Ohioans joined with the Northeast Ohio-based Coalition To Protect Social Security for a public "Rally to Protect Social Security and Stop Privatization" to persuade Senators DeWine and Voinovich to pledge not to privatize Social Security. Citizens at the gathering, held outside Senator DeWine's Cleveland office, said they wanted Ohio's Senators to use their influence to shape the Social Security plan while it is being written in order to stop privatization from becoming a part of the law.

"DeWine and Voinovich should take Social Security privatization off the table. Now that Congress has begun the process of writing an actual plan, they need to declare their views and influence the way that Social Security law is put together, so it to stops privatization," said Betty Chaka, a Cleveland retiree.

To this point, DeWine and Voinovich have refused to clearly, unequivocally pledge to oppose the president's Social Security privatization scheme, which will mushroom the nation's debt by $4.9 trillion, slash benefits by up to 46 percent, and replace guaranteed income security with the risk of market busts and junk stocks.

Tuesday marked the first time Congress began the process of writing an actual plan to privatize Social Security, a turning point in a public debate on Social Security which, up to now, has consisted chiefly of scripted, screened White House events which barred questions and citizens holding the opposing view.

The Senate is expected to act first on Social Security privatization legislation because U.S. House leaders are anxious to avoid forcing a politically difficult vote on a privatization bill which the Senate might later disregard in favor of its own legislation.

As the White House's 60-day campaign to promote Social Security privatization winds down with flagging momentum and without having won new support, the president has turned for assistance to Capitol Hill allies. A CBS News poll of April 18 showed uneasiness about the president's handling of Social Security has increased to 70 percent, while the aggressive White House campaign has failed to sell Social Security privatization to the public, whose views have not shifted since the campaign began in January.

In convening Tuesday's rally, the Northeastern Ohio-based Coalition To Protect Social Security, a coalition of labor, faith, and community organizations, is joining allied groups nationwide in a "National Day of Unity to Protect Social Security and Stop Privatization" to publicly demonstrate opposition to Social Security privatization. As many as 35 states are expected to participate in actions which will coincide with a major rally in Washington, DC., expected to draw thousands.