This week, Members of the House returned to Washington, and lawmakers on the bicameral budget conference continued negotiations. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw three key bills gain support.
Conferees Make Progress on Budget Talks
The co-chairs of the bicameral budget conference – Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1) and Sen. Patty Murray (WA) – made important progress in their budget negotiations this week. According to Congressional Quarterly, the two are nearing an agreement that would raise fiscal 2014 spending by a modest amount in exchange for a select few deficit reduction measures. They are also reportedly considering extending that general framework to fiscal 2015, which will begin on October 1st, just one month before next year’s mid-term elections.
At this time, it appears as though cuts to Social Security and Medicare will not be included in the co-chairs’ proposal, although the conferees are considering making changes to federal employee retirement programs. One particular plan would require federal employees to pay 5.5 percent more for retirement.
No proposal has been announced publicly yet, but most on Capitol Hill seem optimistic that a deal will be struck soon. In addition to ironing out some details, the co-chairs are also currently considering whether they will use regular legislation or a budget resolution to pass their plan. Using legislation would allow it to move through Congress more quickly, as it would not need the approval of the conferees and it would require only one vote in each chamber instead of two.
According to Congressional Quarterly, if a deal in legislative form is ironed out by Monday, Members of the House could vote on it as early as Wednesday – two days before the conference’s December 13th deadline. TSCL will keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations in the coming days, and we will continue to encourage lawmakers to leave Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts out of the discussion. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website.
Three Bills Gain Support
This week, two new cosponsors signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118), bringing the total up to forty-two. The new cosponsors are Reps. Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Allyson Schwartz (PA-13). If signed into law, the bill would reform the Social Security program in three ways: it would adjust the benefit formula, resulting in more generous monthly benefits; it would adopt the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), resulting in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), and it would lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The Strengthening Social Security Act would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors.
In addition, two new cosponsors – Reps. Michael Doyle (PA-14) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795) this week, bringing the total up to one hundred. If signed into law, the bill would repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year.
Finally, one new cosponsor – Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) – signed on to the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (H.R. 3090) this week, bringing the total up to forty-seven. If signed into law, the bill would incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding. H.R. 3090 would take an important step in preventing elder abuse – a problem that affects an estimated 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized older adults each year.
TSCL enthusiastically supports the Strengthening Social Security Act, the Social Security Fairness Act, and the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.