Legislative Update for Week Ending June 7, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 7, 2013

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week to a busy schedule, and many kept their focus on comprehensive immigration reform. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw three key bills gain new cosponsors.

Immigration Reform Remains Center of Attention

The “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration reform bill may be moving to the Senate floor as early as next week, and members on both sides of the aisle are planning amendments and weighing their options. Currently, support for the bill is mixed. Many are concerned that the bill’s border security provisions are too lax, and others have said they would like to tweak the way the bill would treat high-skilled foreign workers.

Members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” have said they are open to supporting amendments that strengthen the bill, and TSCL is hopeful that the full Senate considers one amendment that the Judiciary Committee failed to approve two weeks ago. That amendment would prevent immigrants from earning Social Security credits based on work done while in the country illegally. TSCL believes that such an amendment must be considered and adopted for ethical reasons, and to protect the Social Security Trust Fund from additional and unspecified strains.

The bill’s future remains uncertain despite optimism from Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), who said last week that it will be “pretty easy” to find the necessary sixty votes. Meanwhile, progress in the House has been much slower. A group of eight negotiators announced that they had reached a deal “in principle” on Wednesday, but one key member – Rep. Raul Labrador (ID-1) – dropped out of the group due to philosophical differences. Debate will likely continue throughout the summer months, and TSCL will continue to keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations. We will post updates here in the legislative news section of our website.

Three Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, two new cosponsors signed on to Sen. Mark Begich’s (AK) Social Security Fairness Act (S. 895), bringing the total up to six. The new cosponsors are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). The bill, if signed into law, would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) – signed on to Sen. Bernard Sanders’ (VT) Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act (S. 500), bringing the total up to eleven. If signed into law, Sen. Sanders’ bill would apply the Social Security payroll tax to all income in excess of $250,000. Currently, the payroll tax is capped at $113,700, and no income over that amount is taxed. Sen. Sanders’ bill would reportedly add another fifty years to the solvency of the Trust Fund without cutting any benefits for seniors.

One new cosponsor – Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-3) – also signed on Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649) this week, bringing the total up to twenty-three. If signed into law, Rep. Deutch’s bill would adopt the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) for the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (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 Social Security COLAs more fair and accurate.

TSCL enthusiastically supports S. 895, H.R. 649, and S. 500, and we were pleased to see support grow for each of them this week.