Legislative Update for Week Ending March 22, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 22, 2013

This week, lawmakers approved a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, and budget negotiations continued. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with several Members of Congress and their top staff members, two key bills were introduced, and three TSCL-backed bills gained support.

Spending Bill Passes, Budget Talks Continue

Members of Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through September 30th, averting a government shut-down that was scheduled to hit next week. The CR caps spending at $984 billion, keeping in place the $85 billion in sequester cuts that went into effect on March 1st. Many are calling the CR’s quick passage a breakthrough in bipartisan leadership, and on Thursday, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (KY-5) said, “We proved we can get complicated hard things done and that’s what this bill does.”

However, regarding the 2014 budget negotiations, signs of bipartisanship have not yet been seen. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s (WI-1) budget – which was approved in the House on Thursday – aims to cut spending and balance the budget. Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray’s (WA) budget, on the other hand, is centered on plans to raise revenue. According to Politico, the two committee chairs do not currently have plans to set up a conference committee to hash out the differences in their plans, but Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) said this week that he still believes the budget process offers the best opportunity for reaching a comprehensive deal. As negotiations continue, TSCL will continue to serve as a voice for seniors on Capitol Hill, working to prevent any harsh benefit cuts from being included in a final package.

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 several Members of Congress and 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 Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), 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. Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-22), Joshua Crosson (Legislative Assistant (LA) to Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9)), Brian Ryckman (Legislative Counsel to Rep. Keith Rothfus (PA-12)), Carol Wayman (Senior LA to Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5)), Jennifer Walters (Senior LA to Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2)), Jessica Phelps (LA to Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3)), and Carina Marquez-Barrientos (LA to Rep. Tim Walz (MN-1)).

Two Key Bills Re-Introduced

On Wednesday, Rep. Walter Jones (NC-3) re-introduced his Social Security Guarantee Act (H.R. 1275). If signed into law, H.R. 1275 would guarantee by law the right of individuals to receive Social Security benefits in full, and with accurate annual cost-of-living adjustments. TSCL is very supportive of H.R. 1275 since it would make the Social Security program more reliable for seniors, and we look forward to working with Rep. Jones throughout the 113th Congress to build support for his bill.

TSCL also announced its support for a bill that would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund by subjecting all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, the payroll tax cap sits at $113,700, and no income over that amount is taxed. The bill, known as the No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029) in the House, and the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act (S. 500) in the Senate, was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT). Their bills currently have fifteen and nine cosponsors, respectively, and TSCL looks forward to helping build support in the coming months.

Three TSCL-Backed Bills Gain Support

This week, three new cosponsors – Reps. Judy Chu (CA-27), Keith Ellison (MN-5), and Chellie Pingree (ME-1)  – 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 seven. 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.

In addition, Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649) gained two new cosponsors this week, bringing the total up to seventeen. They are: Reps. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Jared Huffman (CA-2). 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.

Finally, Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (PA-13) Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574) gained eight new cosponsors this week, bringing the total up to twenty-two. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA-2), Daniel Maffei (NY-24), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Ami Bera (CA-7), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Mike McIntyre (NC-7). If signed into law, Rep. Schwartz’s bill would bring stability to the Medicare program by repealing and replacing the flawed formula that is currently used to determine physician reimbursements.

TSCL strongly supports H.R. 1030, H.R. 649, and H.R. 574, since each of them would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors have earned. We look forward to working with Reps. DeFazio, Deutch, and Schwartz in the coming months to continue building support.