This week, comprehensive immigration reform remained the center of attention for Members of the Senate. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw three key bills gain new cosponsors.
Senate Begins Debate on Immigration Overhaul
On Tuesday, the Senate “Gang of Eight’s” immigration reform bill passed its first major procedural hurdle by a wide margin, but its future remains uncertain. Many Members have vowed to reject the bill unless it includes an amendment from Sen. John Cornyn (TX) that would strengthen the bill’s border security measures. His amendment would require the federal government to gain full control over the border and catch 90 percent of all attempted crossings before granting any green cards to undocumented immigrants. Some in the Senate have praised Sen. Cornyn’s efforts, while others have called his amendment a “poison pill.”
An amendment to the bill that TSCL enthusiastically supports was also introduced this week. Senators Orrin Hatch (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL) put forth an amendment to prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done while in the country illegally, using stolen or fraudulent Social Security numbers. In a press release, Sen. Hatch called it a “common-sense amendment” that would “preserve the integrity of the Social Security program.” TSCL agrees, and we are hopeful that the full Senate gives the amendment careful consideration. Failing to adopt it would be fiscally irresponsible and ethically unfair to seniors who have earned their benefits.
Debate on immigration reform will likely continue throughout the summer. In the meantime, TSCL will continue to inform Members of Congress about the ways in which comprehensive reform would affect Social Security, and we will continue to post updates here in the legislative news section of our website.
Key Bills Gain Support
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Nick Rahall (WV-3) – signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act, bringing the total up to fourteen. If signed into law, Rep. DeFazio’s bill would base the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) upon the spending patterns of seniors. Currently, it is based upon the way that young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience. A study conducted by TSCL this year found that seniors have lost 31 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear sign that the current COLA is growing too slowly.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-9) – signed on to Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649). The cosponsor total is now up to twenty-four. If signed onto law, Rep. Deutch’s bill would adopt the CPI-E for the calculation of Social Security COLAs, and it would gradually eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. Rep. Deutch’s bill would reportedly extend the solvency of the Trust Fund considerably, while also making COLAs more fair and accurate.
Finally, nine new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795, S. 896), bringing the total up to sixty-one for the House bill, seven for the Senate bill. The new cosponsors are: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Reps. John Yarmuth (KY-3), John Sarbanes (MD-3), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Peter King (NY-2), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Don Young (AK), Gary Miller (CA-31), and David Cicilline (RI-1). If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.
TSCL is very supportive of H.R. 1030, H.R. 649, and H.R. 1795. We were pleased to see support grow for each of them this week.