Legislative Update For The Week Ending September 9, 2011

Legislative Update For The Week Ending September 9, 2011

This week, both Houses of Congress returned to Capitol Hill after spending the month of August in their home states and districts. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction met for the first time, and President Obama announced his $447 billion jobs package in front of a Joint Session of Congress.

“Super Committee” Holds Organizational Meeting

On Thursday, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – also called the “Super Committee” – met for the first time to make opening remarks and vote on a set of rules.

Throughout the opening statements, Members of the Committee made it clear that they plan to prioritize job creation and tax reform. All items remain on the table however, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Committee, which was created by the law that lifted the debt ceiling in August, must vote on their deficit reduction proposal before Thanksgiving.

The Committee’s first public hearing, entitled “The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats,” will occur on Tuesday, September 13th. Members of TSCL’s legislative staff will be in attendance at this important hearing and will continue to monitor the “Super Committee’s” progress.

President Obama Addresses Joint Session of Congress

On Thursday night, President Obama announced his $447 billion jobs package before a Joint Session of Congress. The President’s proposal included plans to tackle infrastructure projects, extend unemployment benefits, and aid state and local governments.

Notably, the President also proposed a one-year extension and expansion of the Social Security payroll tax holiday. Under the plan, the tax rate for employees and employers would be halved, from 6.2 percent to just 3.1 percent. This tax cut, the President said, would put an extra $1,500 in the pockets of middle-class American families, and would reach 98 percent of small businesses.

Many on Capitol Hill have been supportive of extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday as a stimulative measure. Others however, including TSCL, believe that it will make a permanent tax cut more likely, potentially jeopardizing the program’s ability to fully pay Social Security benefits in the future. Further, the payroll tax cut makes the Social Security trust funds reliant on general revenues and undermines the self-funding nature of the program.

Throughout President Obama’s Thursday night address, he repeatedly challenged Congress to pass the bill “right away,” and he noted a number of times that each of the components have had bipartisan support in the past. However, Members of Congress have not had a chance to review the legislation in its entirety, as it has not been sent to Capitol Hill yet. The President did not outline his plans to pay for the jobs package during his speech, but instead stated that he would announce his own deficit-reduction package on September 19th.

TSCL will continue to monitor this debate and provide seniors with a bipartisan voice on Capitol Hill.