This week, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill, and in a last-ditch effort to replace $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, the Senate voted on two dueling sequester bills without success. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with ten Members of Congress or their top staff to discuss critical issues of importance to seniors, and a representative from TSCL’s parent organization, The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), testified before the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs.
Without Congressional Action, Sequester Takes Effect
After two rival Senate sequester replacement bills failed to win passage this week, the sequester – which consists of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts – took effect on Friday, March 1st. Under the sequester, physicians and other providers who treat Medicare patients face a 2 percent reduction in reimbursements – a cut that TSCL fears could affect seniors’ access to quality medical care. Cuts to Medicare will amount to $11 billion this year, and hospitals and doctors estimate that their industries will lose more than 200,000 jobs by the end of 2013.
It remains unclear whether lawmakers will take action in the coming weeks to modify the automatic spending cuts. Many on Capitol Hill believe the more pivotal cutoff date for action is March 27th – the day that the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government expires. Last week, Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-8), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, predicted: “The cuts will occur on March 1st. Then there will be a fight in the CR over the design.” TSCL will monitor the evolving negotiations over the next few weeks, and we will continue to post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
TSCL Meets with Key Members of Congress
This week, TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, met with ten key Members of Congress or 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 Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649), 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. Timothy Bishop (NY-1), Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28), Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2), Jenn Holcomb (Legislative Director for Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4)), Andrew Flick (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)), Daniel Burgess (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-4)), Jeff Morgan (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20)), Juliana Heerschap (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS-1)), Tom Borck (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4)), and Heidi Ross (Legislative Assistant to Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16)).
TREA: The Enlisted Association Testifies Before House and Senate Committees
On Thursday, Richard Delaney, National President of The Retired Enlisted Association – TSCL’s parent organization – testified on legislative priorities before the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs. A number of priorities were discussed, including reducing the claims backlog for veterans, ensuring survivors benefits, and preventing the adoption of the “chained” CPI.
In his testimony, President Delaney stated, “The appeal of the ‘chained’ CPI is not, in all sincerity, to create a more accurate calculation of increased costs. Rather, it is intended to save the federal government money … TREA urges you to make clear to your colleagues throughout Congress that this is not the way to deal with the deficit.” Most at the hearing – including TSCL – supported Chairman Delaney’s position on the “chained” CPI, and we look forward to working with him in the coming months to prevent its adoption.