Legislative Update for Week Ending January 24, 2014

Legislative Update for Week Ending January 24, 2014

This week, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress returned to their home states and districts for the holiday recess. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew notified leaders in the House and Senate that the federal government will exhaust its borrowing authority by the end of February, which is earlier than expected. Additionally, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain support.

Debt Limit Fix Needed Sooner than Expected

This week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew notified Congressional leaders that they will need to increase the debt ceiling before the end of February, which is approximately two weeks earlier than expected. The Treasury’s borrowing authority is technically set to expire on February 7th, but the department is able to use so-called “extraordinary measures” to avoid government borrowing until late February. Lew previously thought his department could hold off on borrowing until early March, but additional funds will be needed sooner than expected in order to pay out tax refunds.

TSCL is hopeful that leaders in Congress will successfully negotiate an increase in the debt ceiling before the looming deadline – doing so in recent years has proven to be a difficult task. According to Congressional Quarterly, “Congress is unlikely to act to raise or suspend the debt limit until very close to the deadline.” Complicating matters, many lawmakers have indicated that their votes will require spending cuts in exchange for an extension of borrowing authority.

Should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling before late February, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries could be negatively impacted. Since the government would be required to meet its obligations with its cash on hand, Social Security checks could be delayed, and reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare patients could be postponed. Doctors would likely continue providing services, but there is some concern that seniors’ access to care could be jeopardized.

TSCL will keep a close eye on the evolving debt ceiling negotiations in the coming weeks, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website. In the meantime, we encourage our members and supporters to contact their elected officials to request their support for a clean increase in the debt ceiling. To find contact information for your Members of Congress, click here.

Key Bill Gains Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-8) – signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to fifty-five. If signed into law, the PRIME Act would take a number of steps to comprehensively prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within the two programs – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly. We were pleased to see support grow for H.R. 2305 this week, and we look forward to helping build additional support for it in the coming months.