This week, the Senate’s Gang of Eight was busy defending its comprehensive immigration reform plan, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support.
Gang of Eight Defends Immigration Reform Plan
At a seven-hour Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the Gang of Eight for their comprehensive plan, while members of the committee picked it apart and discussed potential amendments. Secretary Napolitano called the plan “realistic” and “achievable” and she said the department would be ready to implement border security provisions within the outlined timeframe. However, committee members seemed wary, and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (IA) said: “This bill would put no pressure on this secretary or any future secretary to secure the borders.”
Potential amendments to the bill were discussed at the hearing, and at this point in the process it seems that measures to strengthen border security and enhance Congressional oversight will be put forth. One committee member, Sen. Al Franken (MN), stated: “I and other Senators will do everything we can to amend this bill.” Members of the Gang of Eight, on the other hand, have said they will band together to defeat any amendments that would weaken it.
Discussion on the bill will likely continue into the summer, and TSCL will continue to monitor the ongoing debate. We remain hopeful that lawmakers will address any loopholes that would allow immigrants to claim Social Security credits based on work done illegally. In addition, TSCL is concerned that those with provisional status could have access to Social Security and Medicare benefits before they are granted citizenship. Both of these issues would put an unnecessary and unspecified strain on the Trust Funds, and we will continue to inform Members of Congress about potential issues in the coming weeks.
Two Bills Gain New Cosponsors
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Robert Scott (VA-3) – signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030). The cosponsor total is now up to ten. If signed into law, Rep. DeFazio’s bill would base the Social Security COLA upon the spending patterns of seniors. Currently, it is based upon the way young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience. A study conducted by TSCL in 2012 found that seniors have lost 34 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear sign that the current COLA is growing too slowly.
Rep. DeFazio’s No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029) also gained new cosponsors this week. Five Members of Congress signed on, bringing the total up to twenty-five. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Robert Scott (VA-3), Collin Peterson (MN-7), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), William Enyart (IL-12), and Barbara Lee (CA-13). The bill, if signed into law, would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, the payroll tax is capped at $113,700 and no income over that amount is taxed. Rep. DeFazio’s bill would reportedly add at least fifty years to the solvency of the Trust Fund responsibly, without reducing benefits for seniors.
TSCL is supportive of both of Rep. DeFazio’s bills, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.