This week, the Senate voted in favor of the “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes one provision that The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) strongly supports. In addition, one key bill gained critical support.
Senate Passes Immigration Reform
On Thursday, the Senate adopted the “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration reform plan (S. 744) with a vote of 68-32. While TSCL has many concerns about the effects that immigration reform might have on Social Security and Medicare, we were pleased that the final bill included a provision that Senators Orrin Hatch (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL) introduced earlier this month. If the bill were signed into law, their provision would prevent immigrants from becoming eligible for Social Security benefits based on illegal work.
Currently, the Social Security Administration uses all earnings to determine entitlement to benefits – even earnings posted for jobs worked with invalid, stolen, or fraudulent Social Security numbers. TSCL feels that the provision put forth by Senators Hatch and Rubio would help protect the integrity of the Social Security program, while also reducing the long-term financial burden that immigration reform would have on the Social Security Trust Fund.
Despite the success of S. 744 in the Senate, leaders in the House do not plan to advance the “Gang of Eight’s” bill. On Wednesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-1) told reporters, “We’re not going to bring up the Senate bill. We’re going to do it … in our own very methodical way, because we want to make sure we get this stuff right.” It remains unclear which path forward the House will take. Currently, a group of seven lawmakers is drafting a comprehensive plan, and the House Judiciary Committee has begun taking a piecemeal approach, passing several smaller bills in the last two weeks. Regardless of which course leaders choose, TSCL will continue to advocate for provisions that would protect the integrity of the Social Security program.
Key Bill Gains Support in House
One new cosponsor – Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-20) – signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), bringing the total up to fifteen. 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 young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience. A study recently conducted by TSCL found that seniors have lost more than 30 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear sign that the current COLA is growing too slowly. TSCL enthusiastically supports Rep. DeFazio’s bill, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.