This week, the Senate’s Gang of Eight released its comprehensive immigration reform proposal, and The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with several top staff members on Capitol Hill. In addition, one key bill was re-introduced, and three bills gained critical support.
Gang of Eight Releases Immigration Reform Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate’s Gang of Eight unveiled an 844-page bill that would comprehensively reform the nation’s immigration system. The bill would require undocumented immigrants to pay a $2,000 fine, pass a background check, have a job, and wait ten years before applying for a green card. Three years later, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship. In total, the process would take approximately thirteen years, and it would be contingent on the government first securing the nation’s borders. If enacted, the Gang of Eight’s plan would mark the largest immigration policy shift in more than fifteen years.
The plan has drawn early criticism from both sides of the aisle. Many feel that it is nothing more than amnesty, and others feel that path to citizenship is too costly and tedious. TSCL has many concerns as well, since it is unclear whether immigrants with provisional legal status would have access to Social Security and Medicare benefits before they are granted citizenship. Additionally, TSCL is concerned about loopholes that would allow immigrants to claim Social Security credits based on work done illegally, since such provisions would put an unnecessary and unspecified strain on the Trust Fund.
In a joint statement released this week, the Gang of Eight stated: “Our bipartisan proposal is a starting point and will be strengthened by good-faith input and ideas from across the ideological spectrum. We look forward to multiple Senate hearings on this bill, an open committee process with amendments, and a full and fair debate in the Senate.” The negotiations will likely carry on for many weeks, and TSCL will be sure to inform Members of Congress about the ways in which comprehensive reform could affect Social Security and Medicare. In the meantime, we will continue to post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
TSCL Meets with Key Members of Congress
This week, TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, met with several top staff members on Capitol Hill to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors. The following bills, among others, were discussed this week: the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), the Social Security Guarantee Act (H.R. 1275), and the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649).
TSCL would like to thank the following for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss the issues that matter most to our members and supporters: Adam Tomlinson (Legislative Director (LD) for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (WV-2)), Natalie Winters (Legislative Assistant (LA) for Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7)), Bruce Newman (Special Assistant for Rep. Don Young (AK-1)), Zach Cafritz (LA for Rep. James Moran (VA-8)), Nick Brousse (LA for Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-26)), Ghada Alkiek (Staff Assistant for Rep. Daniel Kildee (MI-5)), Teresa Frison (LA for Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)), and Akshai Datta (LA for Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-1)).
Key Bill Reintroduced
On Tuesday, Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16) re-introduced the Guaranteed 3% COLA Act (H.R. 1585), a bill that would base the Social Security COLA on the CPI-E and provide a minimum annual COLA of 3 percent. Currently, the COLA seniors receive is based upon the way young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation seniors experience. Rep. Engel’s bill would address this issue by making certain that seniors receive no less than a 3 percent COLA each year.
TSCL lends its enthusiastic support to H.R. 1585, since we believe it would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors deserve and have earned. We look forward to working with Rep. Engel throughout the 113th Congress to build support for his bill, and to pass it into law.
Three Bills Gain New Cosponsors
This week, three new cosponsors – Reps. Jim Himes (CT-4), Danny Davis (IL-7), and Dina Titus (NV-1) – signed on to the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574), bringing the total up to twenty-nine. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), would repeal and replace the faulty formula that is used to determine reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients. The current formula breeds uncertainty in the Medicare program, and Rep. Schwartz’s bill would bring much-needed stability to the program.
Also this week, four new cosponsors also signed on to the No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029 and S. 500). They are: Reps. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Donna Edwards (MD-4), Robert Brady (PA-1), and Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM). The bill was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Senate, and the cosponsor totals are up to twenty and ten, respectively. If signed into law, the No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax – a move that would reportedly add at least fifty additional years to the Trust Fund without cutting benefits.
Finally, five new cosponsors signed on to Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649), bringing the total up to twenty-two. They are: Reps. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Rush Holt (NJ-12), John Conyers (MI-13), Sam Farr (CA-20), and Barbara Lee (CA-13). If signed into law, H.R. 649 would adopt the CPI-E for the calculation of the COLA, and it would gradually eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. Rep. Deutch’s bill would also extend the solvency of the Trust Fund responsibly, without enacting benefit cuts.
TSCL is very supportive of H.R. 574, H.R. 1029, S. 500, and H.R. 649. We were pleased to see support for each of them grow this week.