Legislative Update for Week Ending January 25, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending January 25, 2013

This week, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were sworn in to office for a second time, and Members of the House turned their focus toward a new strategy for temporarily suspending debt ceiling. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) Legislative Consultants visited Capitol Hill to speak with three Members of Congress about critical seniors’ issues, and two important bills were re-introduced in the Senate.

President and Vice President Sworn In for Second Term

President Obama and Vice President Biden celebrated the start of their second term at the 57th Presidential Inauguration on Monday. Both leaders were sworn in to office shortly before noon, and President Obama delivered the inaugural address, where he very briefly spoke about the value of entitlement programs. He stated: “The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Following the ceremony, TSCL’s staff and all-volunteer Board of Trustees took part in one of Washington’s longest-standing inaugural celebrations, the Salute to Heroes ball, which was co-sponsored by TREA: The Enlisted Association. The ball dates back to 1953, and this year it honored more than twenty-five of the seventy-nine living Medal of Honor recipients. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-1), Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders (VT), and Vice President Joe Biden were all in attendance, and each pledged their continued support to veterans. TSCL’s staff and Board of Trustees were honored to be a part of the celebration.

House Passes Debt Limit Suspension

This week, Members of the House focused their full attention on a new strategy for suspending the debt limit until May 18th. The plan, referred to as the No Budget, No Pay Act, came from House Republicans on Monday after they returned from a three-day retreat in Williamsburg, VA. The suspension is designed to allow leaders the time needed in order to form a comprehensive deal. It also requires both chambers of Congress to approve a budget – which the Democratic-led Senate has not done in nearly four years – by April 15th. If either chamber fails to do so, their salaries will be withheld.

Shortly before the House vote on Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) spoke about his hopes for the budget requirements laid out in the bill. He stated, “I have no doubt that we’re going to do our work. We’re committed to doing a budget and a ten-year plan to solve our budget crisis and to balance our budget. And frankly, I think it’s time for the Senate, and the White House, to produce a budget that will balance over the next ten years.”

The House approved the measure by a vote of 285-144 on Wednesday. The bill has moved to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) has said he will take it up and pass it quickly. The White House also signaled its support early this week, with Press Secretary Jay Carney calling the measure “certainly something we welcome.” It appears as though leaders in Washington will tackle the debt limit issue before the February deadline, but the No Budget, No Pay Act does not address the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts – including a 2 percent cut in payments to Medicare providers – that will go into effect on March 1st. It remains to be seen whether the automatic cuts will be prevented, but TSCL will continue to monitor the evolving negotiations and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Meets with Members of Congress

On Tuesday, TSCL’s Legislative Consultants Former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk met with three Members of Congress to discuss the re-introduction of critical bills like the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act and the Social Security Guarantee Act. TSCL would like to thank Representatives Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Mike McIntyre (NC-7), and Walter Jones (NC-3) for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss the issues that matter the most to our members and supporters. We look forward to working with these Members of Congress throughout the 113th Congress.

Two Critical Bills Re-Introduced in Senate

This week, Sen. David Vitter (LA) re-introduced two critical bills: the Notch Fairness Act (S. 90) and the Social Security Lock-Box Act (S. 110). If signed into law, the Notch Fairness Act would provide those born between the years 1917 and 1926, often referred to as Notch babies, with some much-needed compensation. Just years before they were set to retire, these individuals learned that they would have significantly lower benefits than originally anticipated. Sen. Vitter’s bill would allow Notch babies to choose between a $5,000 lump-sum payment (payable in four installments) or an increased monthly benefit calculation.

The Social Security Lock-Box Act, if signed into law, would establish a procedure to safeguard the Social Security Trust Funds, preventing lawmakers from using the so-called “excess funds” for purposes other than to pay out benefits. TSCL is very supportive of Sen. Vitter’s bills since they would go a long way in making the Social Security program more equitable and reliable. We look forward to working with Sen. Vitter throughout the 113th Congress, and we hope to help him pass both S. 90 and S. 110 into law.