Both chambers of Congress adjourned for the President’s Day Holiday this week and are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Monday, February 25th. Meanwhile, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, released a new proposal that would avert the looming sequester and trim $2.4 trillion from the deficit. In addition, two Members of Congress re-introduced a critical bill that would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund without cutting benefits.
Simpson-Bowles Plan Revisited
On Tuesday, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles released a revised version of their “Moment of Truth” report, which was drafted by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010. In the new framework, the two recommend averting the sequester – the $85 billion in automatic cuts that are scheduled to hit in just one week – and replacing it with $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction.
The plan that Simpson and Bowles outlined this week includes $600 billion in federal health care spending cuts, including a number of Medicare modifications like raising the eligibility age, increasing means testing for high earners, and reducing payments to providers. Simpson and Bowles also recommended the adoption of the “chained” CPI for the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). The two wrote in a joint statement this week: “This plan begins where the president and the Speaker left off. It’s more health care than the Democrats would like, and more revenue that Republicans support. But in our view, it is the minimum size necessary to put the debt on a clear downward path.”
The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) has concerns about a number of elements outlined in the revised Simpson-Bowles plan – namely the adoption of the “chained” CPI, since seniors are already being short changed by the COLAs they receive. The plan released this week is not likely to be adopted in its entirety, but it will serve as an important comparative tool in the coming weeks as leaders in Washington continue to search for sequester alternatives. The automatic cuts are scheduled to hit on Friday, March 1st, but leaders have said they believe the deadline is flexible and their best chance at redesigning it might come at the end of the month, when the continuing resolution to fund the government expires. Until then, TSCL will continue to monitor the negotiations, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
Key Social Security Bill Re-Introduced
This week, two Members of Congress – Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Sen. Mark Begich (AK) – re-introduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649 and S. 308), a bill that would base the calculation of Social Security COLAs on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), and gradually eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax.
TSCL is very supportive of the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, since it would make COLAs more accurate and extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds responsibly, without enacting benefit cuts. Currently, Rep. Deutch’s bill has five cosponsors – Reps. David Cicilline (RI-1), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), James Langevin (RI-2), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-9). We look forward to working with Rep. Deutch and Sen. Begich in the coming months to help build support and to pass the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act into law.