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Senate budget chairman urges action on deficit

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee says the nation faces the real possibility of becoming a "second tier economic power" if it fails to address the trillion-dollar-plus deficit. He says changes to Social Security and Medicare are imperative.

Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota on Thursday faced questions about the divisive proposals from the chairmen of President Barack Obama's deficit commission. They include an end to popular tax breaks, raising the retirement age and cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Conrad said Americans and politicians have to realize that Medicare and Social Security can't remain the same. Conrad — a member of the deficit commission — defended its chairmen's proposal to raise the retirement age to 69 by 2075.

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