Legislative Update for Week Ending December 18, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending December 18, 2015

This week, after weeks of intense negotiations, lawmakers reached a bipartisan budget deal that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain critical support.

Spending Deal Reached by Congress

Early Wednesday morning, after weeks of negotiations, leaders in Congress unveiled the text of their $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. If adopted by both chambers and signed into law by President Obama, the omnibus will fund the federal government through September 30, 2016.

In addition to funding the government, the 2,000-page deal will renew health benefits for 9/11 responders, lift a ban on the exportation of crude oil that has been around for nearly fifty years, and delay two Obamacare taxes for two additional years – one tax on medical devices and one tax on high-cost "Cadillac" healthcare plans. As a part of the deal, leaders in Congress also agreed to make permanent a number of tax breaks that have been subject to frequent renewals for decades.

At the time of writing this week’s update, neither chamber had voted on the omnibus spending bill, but its passage is expected before funding runs out on Tuesday, December 22nd. A vote in the House is scheduled for Friday morning, and lawmakers in the Senate will likely take it up shortly thereafter, potentially as early as Friday afternoon. President Obama signaled his support for the spending package on Wednesday, which means he plans to sign it into law if it is sent to his desk.

TSCL is relieved that Congress has finally reached an agreement after weeks of heated negotiations. Another government shutdown like the one that occurred for sixteen days in 2013 could have resulted in delayed Social Security checks or interrupted reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients. We will follow the movement of the deal very closely in the coming days, until it is signed into law by President Obama. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook or our new Twitter page for frequent updates.

Key Bill Gains New Cosponsor

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3) – signed on to the SAVE Benefits Act (H.R. 4012), which was recently introduced in the House by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-9). If signed into law, the bill would give Social Security beneficiaries a 3.9 percent COLA next year instead of the zero COLA they are expected to receive. It would cover the cost of the emergency COLA and extend the solvency of the Trust Funds by closing a loophole that allows corporations to deduct executive bonuses from their taxes.

TSCL supports H.R. 4012 enthusiastically, and we were pleased to see two new cosponsors sign on to it this week. We will be advocating for the passage of H.R. 4012 and S. 2251 – Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (MA) companion bill – tirelessly in the coming months because we know that a 3.9 percent COLA would provide much-needed relief to our members and supporters next year.