Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles. Under his legislation (HR 4851), no new taxes would be needed to pay for “transition costs,” participation in the new system would be voluntary and individuals would be allowed to divert a portion of their payroll tax into a mutual fund. A questioner from the audience, stressing his own Democratic credentials, said he believed Ryan’s plan should attract members of his own party and wondered whether the Wisconsin lawmaker had secured any Democratic sponsors. Ryan said he had been working with friends on the “other side of the aisle” who were favorable toward his solution, but he faced an enormous problem: intense pressure on his colleagues from the minority leadership. “We were in planning stages [with friendly Democrats],” said Ryan. But each essentially told him: “I like what you’re doing. I like this bill. I think it’s the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can’t do it.” Ryan said he believed the only thing that can assure passage is an outpouring from America’s grassroots.