Legislative Update for Week Ending March 15, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 15, 2013

This week, Budget Committee Chairs in both chambers released rival budget proposals, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw three key bills gain critical support.

Budget Proposals Illustrate Partisan Divide

This week, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (WI-1) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (WA) released their ten-year proposals, and the distance between the two leaves little hope that the budget process will result in any sort of grand bargain. Rep. Ryan’s proposal would cut spending by $5.7 trillion over ten years and balance the budget in ten years. Sen. Murray’s plan would raise $1 trillion in new taxes, add $100 billion in new stimulus spending, and turn off the sequester. Her plan does not project a date at which balance would be achieved.

Regarding Social Security, neither plan would make specific changes. However, Rep. Ryan’s plan would require President Obama and Congress to submit plans that would ensure the program’s solvency. Regarding Medicare, Sen. Murray’s plan calls for $265 billion in indistinct savings that would not impact beneficiaries, while Rep. Ryan’s plan outlines a major overhaul of the program.

His plan would turn Medicare into a premium support program in 2024, where seniors would receive set payments from the government to help them purchase either private insurance or traditional Medicare coverage. Those choosing more expensive plans would pay more out of pocket, and those choosing cheaper plans would receive a rebate. Rep. Ryan’s plan would also increase means testing for Medicare Parts B and D, and although it would repeal the health care law, it would keep in place the law’s $716 billion in Medicare savings.

The majority parties in both chambers will likely approve their budget proposals next week, but neither plan is expected to gain bipartisan support. President Obama is scheduled to release a budget proposal of his own in early April – two months past his February 4th deadline – and he has set an end of July goal for a comprehensive deal. As negotiations to reduce the deficit carry on, TSCL will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure that harsh benefit cuts for seniors are not included in a final deficit reduction deal. We will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Three TSCL-Backed Bills Gain Support

On Wednesday, twelve new cosponsors signed on to Rep. Mike McIntyre’s (NC-7) Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), a bill that would provide modest compensation to seniors who receive lower Social Security checks because they were born between the years 1917 and 1926. The bill’s new cosponsors are: Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA-2), Jo Bonner (AL-1), William Lacy Clay (MO-1), John Duncan (TN-2), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), James McGovern (MA-2), Michael Michaud (ME-2), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Adam Schiff (CA-28), and Paul Tonko (NY-20).These twelve are the bill’s first cosponsors.

Also this week, four cosponsors signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), which was re-introduced just last week. The new cosponsors are: Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Michael Michaud (ME-2), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-9). They are the bill’s first cosponsors. If signed into law, H.R. 1030 would base the Social Security 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. In a study conducted by TSCL in 2012, we found that seniors have lost 34 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear signal that the current COLA is growing too slowly.

Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649) also gained four new cosponsors on Tuesday, bringing the total up to fifteen. They are: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), and Gene Green (TX-29). Rep. Deutch’s bill, if signed into law, would also 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. H.R. 649 would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds responsibly, without enacting benefit cuts.

TSCL strongly supports H.R. 155, H.R. 1030, and H.R. 649 since all three would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors have earned and deserve. We look forward to working with Reps. McIntyre, DeFazio, and Deutch in the coming months to continue building support.