Legislative Update for Week Ending March 18, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 18, 2016

This week, lawmakers on the House Budget Committee approved a fiscal 2017 budget resolution after weeks of negotiations, and The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) Board of Trustees met with several Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss critical Social Security issues.

Budget Moves Through Committee

On Wednesday, after a nine-hour markup, lawmakers on the House Budget Committee approved a $3.9 trillion resolution to fund the federal government through fiscal 2017. The proposal includes $6.5 trillion in spending cuts, including $449 billion to the Medicare program. To accomplish this, it would transform Medicare into a premium-support program over a seven-year period, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers to purchase private insurance from a list of authorized plans.

The resolution’s authors wrote, “Our plan would strengthen Medicare by offering future seniors guaranteed-coverage options – including traditional Medicare – regardless of pre-existing conditions or health history. All seniors will have the support they need to get the care they deserve.”

In response to the proposed changes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) said, “With their latest budget proposal, House Republicans have made their values very clear: strengthen the special interests, abandon seniors and hard-working families.” TSCL agrees that adopting a premium-support model for the Medicare program would be a step in the wrong direction, and we oppose the Budget Committee’s efforts to include it in next year’s resolution. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to advocate against plans to privatize the Medicare program.

The budget resolution now heads to the House floor, where its future remains uncertain. Republican leaders in the House have been attempting to win the support of the 40-member conservative Freedom Caucus for weeks, but they have not yet been successful. They will need to rely upon a least a dozen of their votes for its passage. Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (GA-6) told reporters this week that he is “working with members who are not on the Budget Committee” to build support for it, and that it will be taken up “when we have the votes.”

In the meantime, TSCL will be keeping a close eye on the budget negotiations since they will impact the funding of the Social Security and Medicare programs. We will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website, and on our Twitter page.

TSCL’s Board Visits Capitol Hill

This week, TSCL’s Board of Trustees traveled to Washington, D.C. for its first meeting of 2016. The Board of Trustees includes the following members: Edward Cates, Chairman; Charlie Flowers, Vice-Chairman; Arthur Cooper, Secretary; Deborah Oelschig, Treasurer; Michael Gales, PAC Treasurer; and Larry Hyland, Liaison and President of TREA: The Enlisted Association.

On Wednesday, the Board of Trustees – along with Shannon Benton (Executive Director), former Congressman Van Hilleary (Legislative Consultant), and TSCL’s staff – spent the day meeting with four Congressional offices. Support was expressed for a number of bills that would strengthen Social Security benefits for older Americans, including the CPI-E Act (H.R. 3961), the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 3074), and the Honesty in CPI Reporting Act (H.R. 3500).

TSCL would like to thank the following for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors: Congressman David Valadao (CA-21), Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-6), Congressman Phil Roe (TN-1), and Mr. Thomas Woodburn (Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-1)).