Legislative Update For The Week Ending April 8, 2011

Legislative Update For The Week Ending April 8, 2011

This jam-packed week kept The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) team quite busy.  Key events of the past week include: TSCL’s Board of Trustees holding their second meeting of 2011, which included hosting a Welcome Reception for Members and staff of the 112th Congress and visits with several Members of Congress; the release of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal; and a last-minute flurry of activity to avoid a government “shutdown.”

TSCL’s Board of Trustees on Capitol Hill

This week TSCL’s Board of Trustees were in town for their second meeting of 2011.  The TSCL Board of Trustees includes the following members: Larry Hyland, chairman; Tom O’Connell, vice-chairman; Charlie Flowers, secretary; Ed Cates, treasurer; Michael Gales, political action committee (PAC) treasurer; and Arthur Cooper, board liaison and president of The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA).
While in town the Board held business meetings and spent a day on Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress and top staff.  While on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 6th, the TSCL Board hosted a Welcome Reception for Members and staff of the 112th Congress.  Members and/or staff from 54 Congressional offices were in attendance at the reception, including Reps. Howard Coble (NC) and Nick Rahall (WV).

After the reception, the Board members spent the rest of the day going door to door on Capitol Hill, with legislative consultants former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, as well as legislative assistant, Mike Watson.  TSCL would like to thank the following Members of Congress and their top staff for taking time to see the group: Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) Andy Harris (MD), John Sarbanes (MD), Cory Gardner (CO), Scott Tipton (CO), and David Cicilline (RI).

During the meetings support was expressed for legislation that is pending introduction, as well as legislation that has already been introduced on the following issues: a fair Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment; Social Security Notch fairness; Social Security Totalization agreement reform; prescription drug reimportation, as well as other issues.

Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Proposal Unveiled

An important topic on Capitol Hill this week was the unveiling of fiscal year 2012 budget resolution produced by the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan.  The document, “The Path to Prosperity,” contains bold changes to many programs.

Over the next decade, the proposed budget would bring federal spending and revenues to around the historical average.  Among other items, the budget would do the following:
• permanently lock-in the current tax rates with additional reforms;
• repeal the health care overhaul legislation;
• preserve most of the Medicare cuts in the health care overhaul, but only apply them to Medicare;
• reduce discretionary spending programs;
• convert Medicaid into a “block-grant” program;
• convert Medicare for people under age 55 into a “defined contribution” or “voucher” program, where beneficiaries would be given a set amount of money to shop on an exchange for private health insurance; and
• require that the President and Congress submit plans to reform Social Security if the Social Security trust funds are not in balance.

Chairman Ryan’s bold proposals will surely set off months of highly-charged debate in the halls of Congress.  TSCL believes that any attempts to reform the Social Security and Medicare programs should allow phase-in times to be as long as possible to prevent inequities for beneficiaries.  TSCL will also fight any proposals which include harsh benefits cuts, such as cuts to Social Security COLAs.

Government “Shutdown” Averted

Arguably the most important, and attention-getting, item on the congressional agenda this week, was a deal to avert a government “shutdown” at midnight on Friday.  After weeks of negotiations between leaders of the House, Senate and the White House, a deal was finally announced late Friday night, which avoided a government shutdown.  After a longer-term continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year is enacted, the discussion will likely turn to the fiscal year 2012 budget and an upcoming vote to increase the debt ceiling.