Legislative Update For Week Ending December 24, 2011

Legislative Update For Week Ending December 24, 2011

This week on Capitol Hill, talks continued over the Payroll Holiday Tax extension and new co-sponsors were added to two important bills.

Senate Passes Payroll Holiday Tax Extension

Amendment After passing the House mostly along party lines, the Senate unanimously amended The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (bill) on Saturday. Leaders of both parties reached a last-minute deal that would provide temporary relief for over 160 million workers beginning January 1st.

The amendment now goes to the House where it would extend the Social Security payroll tax cut for two months while lawmakers discuss long-term funding options. The employee share of the payroll tax would remain at the current 4.2 percent rate if the House passes the measure.

The Medicare physician reimbursement rate, or “doc fix,” is also an important point of contention. The Senate amendment would provide a two-month patch for physicians seeking to avoid a 27.4 percent reimbursement rate cut at the start of the new year.

While both parties have expressed a desire to extend the payroll tax holiday and provide a “doc fix,” House GOP leaders are seeking a full year-long extension versus the proposed temporary patch and are currently denying a vote on the Senate measure. The House motion, passed on Tuesday, denounced the Senate’s amendment and calls for a House-Senate conference committee to take up the dispute.

On Tuesday, President Obama urged House Republicans to allow a vote on the amendment: "What they're really holding out for is to wring concessions from Democrats on issues that have nothing to do with the payroll tax cut," he told reporters. As of publication, a vote in the House has yet to occur on the amendment.

New Support Gained for Key Bills

This week, Reps. Bruce Braley (IA-1), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Theodore Deutch (FL-19), Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), Robert Dold (IL-10), Eliot Engel (NY-17), Richard Hanna (NY-24), Walter Jones (NC-3), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Jerry Lewis (CA-41), Edward Markey (MA-7), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), and "Dutch" Ruppersberger (MD-2) signed on as co-sponsors to Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon's (CA-25) Social Security Fairness Act, H.R. 1332. If passed, the bill would repeal the government pension offset and windfall elimination provision. The co-sponsor total for the bill is now 134. This bill would enable retired school teachers, university employees and thousands of civil servants to receive all of the Social Security pensions for which they are entitled. A Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) have long limited the full aid that these beneficiaries desire. Effective since 1977, the GPO prohibits retired spouses, widows, and widowers from receiving the full benefits based on his or her spouse’s employment. The WEP was passed in 1983 and reduces the benefit of a retired or disabled worker who also receives a federal, state or local government annuity based on his or her earnings by up to 60 percent. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11) signed on as a co-sponsor to the Social Security Notch Fairness Act, H.R. 1001 on Tuesday. The Social Security Notch Fairness Act is legislation attempting to amend the Social Security Act in which “Notch Babies” born between 1917-1926 would receive a 5,000 dollar lump-sum compensation over four years or an increased monthly benefit. The co-sponsor total for the bill is now 36.