Legislative Update for Week Ending February 26, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 26, 2016

This week, lawmakers in the House continued working slowly towards a fiscal 2017 budget proposal, and one key bill gained two new cosponsors.

Budget Talks Slowly Continue

This week, budget discussions continued on Capitol Hill amid growing concerns about the dwindling timeline. Leaders in the House hoped to have a budget proposal adopted by March 3rd, but it appears as though they will miss that target next week.

Republicans in Congress met on Wednesday to discuss the proposal, and afterward, Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1) assured reporters that they have plenty of time. He said, “We’re having the same kind of conversations with our members as we have every year. And we expect to continue those conversations in the next week or two to get a unified budget.”

In recent weeks, the greatest challenge has been posed by a group of lawmakers in the House known as the Freedom Caucus. That group has been pressing leaders to move forward with lower spending levels than those agreed to last fall. One member of the caucus, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (SC-5), said: “If the budget becomes a discussion or something tangible on entitlement reform, then that’s something we’d be willing to consider. But if the budget is an up-or-down vote on the higher spending level, then that is something we would not support.”

Lawmakers must agree to a proposal in the coming weeks so that appropriators can begin working on their set of twelve bills. Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-5), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has said the committee would like to start the process by early April. The House will have until September 30th – the end of fiscal 2016 – to approve each of the twelve appropriations bills and avoid a government shutdown right before the November elections.

TSCL will keep a close eye on the evolving budget discussions in the coming weeks. Past budget proposals from leaders in the House have included measures that would cut Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and adopt a premium support model for the Medicare program, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers to purchase private insurance. TSCL opposes both of these significant changes, and we will advocate against them if they are proposed once again this year. For progress updates, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Key Bill Gains Support

This week, two new cosponsors – Reps. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Gwen Moore (WI-4) – signed on to the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1391), bringing the total up to eighty-eight. If signed into law, the bill would take a number of steps to strengthen the Social Security program. It would make the cost-of-living adjustment more accurate by adopting an inflation index specifically for seniors, increase the minimum Social Security benefit to 125 percent of the poverty line, and enact an across-the-board benefit increase of approximately 2 percent, among other things. It would also responsibly strengthen the program’s finances and ensure that the trust fund is fully solvent through the year 2100.

TSCL was pleased to see two new cosponsors sign on to the Social Security 2100 Act this week, and we will continue to advocate for it on Capitol Hill in the months ahead.