Legislative Update for Week Ending June 21, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 21, 2013

This week, Members of Congress continued to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with several Members of Congress and their top aides, and three key bills gained support.

Immigration Reform Tops Agenda Once Again

Comprehensive immigration reform remained the center of attention this week as the Senate continued to debate the “Gang of Eight’s” bill and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis of it. According to the CBO, the bill would cost $22 billion to implement and it would result in a net deficit reduction of $175 billion over ten years. However, the agency failed to provide a long-term cost estimate of the comprehensive plan, which is problematic because immigrants would not have access to federal benefits like Social Security and Medicare for at least thirteen years.

The CBO also estimated that the Senate’s plan would only reduce unauthorized immigration by 25 percent, which is contrary to claims from the “Gang of Eight” that their bill would solve the problem once and for all. In a speech on the Senate floor this week, Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) stated: “It is obvious that this bill won’t ensure that we’re not back in the same position down the road. If proponents are serious about stopping people from living here illegally … they need to adopt common-sense legislation that will stop this flow.”

Members of the Senate will continue to debate the “Gang of Eight’s” bill in the coming weeks, and leaders are hoping to vote on it before the July 4th recess. In the House, it’s unclear which path forward leaders may take. A group of seven lawmakers has been drafting a comprehensive plan for months, and the Judiciary Committee has been advancing bills that would incrementally reform the system. Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) has been putting pressure on both groups to move quickly, since falling far behind the Senate would put his chamber at a strategic disadvantage. Leaders in Washington are hoping to sign a comprehensive plan into law by the end of this summer. In the meantime, TSCL will continue to keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations.

TSCL Meets with Key Lawmakers

This week, TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, met with several Members of Congress and their top staff to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors. The following bills, among others, were discussed this week: the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), and the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574).

TSCL would like to thank the following for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss the issues that matter most to our members and supporters: Rep. Chris Collins (NY-27), Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL-6), Rep. Tom Cotton (AR-4), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Tyler Bontemps (Legislative Correspondent for Rep. Bill Enyart (IL-12)), Eric Landis (Legislative Assistant (LA) for Rep. Andy Barr (KY-6)), Darin Thacker (Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Steve Daines (MT)), Julie Marberg (LA for Rep. Filemon Vela (TX-34)), Courtney Weaver (Legislative Director for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1)), and Paige Langer (Staff Assistant for Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10)).

Three Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP) – signed on to Rep. John Duncan’s (TN-2) CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2154). The cosponsor total is now at four. If signed into law, Rep. Duncan’s bill would mandate the monthly formulation and publication of a consumer price index (CPI) for seniors for the purpose of establishing a more accurate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Currently, the COLA is based upon the spending patterns of young, urban workers – a method that underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience.

One new cosponsor also signed on to Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (PA-13) Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574) this week, bringing the total up to thirty-two. The new cosponsor is Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-22). If signed into law, H.R. 574 would repeal and replace the faulty formula that is used to determine reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. The current formula breeds uncertainty in the Medicare program, and Rep. Schwartz’s bill would bring much-needed stability for both doctors and seniors.

In addition, nineteen new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795, S. 896), bringing the total up to seventy-eight for the House bill, and nine for the Senate bill. The new cosponsors are: Sens. Tom Udall (NM) and Tim Johnson (SD), and Reps. Peter Visclosky (IN-1), Gene Green (TX-29), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), John Lewis (GA-5), Michael Capuano (MA-7), James Himes (CT-4), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Michael Grimm (NY-11), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Joseph Kennedy III (MA-4), C.W. Bill Young (FL-23), William Enyart (IL-12), Michael Turner (OH-10), and Ted Poe (TX-2). 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 enthusiastically supports H.R. 2154, H.R. 574, H.R. 1795, and S. 896, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.