Legislative Update For Week Ending March 23, 2012

Legislative Update For Week Ending March 23, 2012

This week, The Senior Citizens League’s legislative team met with several Members of Congress and their top staff to discuss key issues affecting seniors, and support grew for two important pieces of legislation. Meanwhile, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (WI-1) unveiled his much-anticipated fiscal 2013 budget plan, which would overhaul Medicare and the tax code.

TSCL on the Hill

This week, TSCL’s legislative consultants, Former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, along with TSCL’s legislative analyst, Jessie Gibbons, held meetings on Capitol Hill with Members of Congress and their top staff.

TSCL would like to thank Representatives Rush Holt (NJ-12), Alan Nunnelee (MS-1), and Kevin Yoder (KS-3) for taking the time to discuss the issues that matter the most to our members and supporters. TSCL also met with top staffers in the offices of the following Members of Congress: Kathy Castor (FL-11), Sandy Adams (FL-24), Rick Crawford (AR-1), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), Tim Holden (PA-17), Bill Huizenga (MI-2), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), and Ben Chandler (KY-6).

During these meetings, the following issues were discussed: Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, Social Security Notch fairness, Social Security Totalization agreement reform, and repeal of both the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO). Support was expressed for many of these key issues, and TSCL looks forward to working with these offices in the future.

House Budget Chair Releases Fiscal 2013 Blueprint

On Tuesday, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (WI-1) released a controversial fiscal 2013 budget proposal that would overhaul Medicare and the tax code, and set a lower cap for discretionary spending. According to Rep. Ryan, the plan would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over ten years.

The proposal, if signed into law, would alter the tax code for individuals by moving from six tax brackets to just two, which would be set at ten and twenty-five percent. It would also alter the corporate tax rate, setting it at twenty-five percent.

The plan for Medicare reform, modeled after a proposal that Rep. Ryan created last year with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), would allow seniors to choose between traditional fee-for-service Medicare and a number of qualified private plans. Beginning in 2023, seniors would receive government payments to help them purchase health care. Wealthier seniors would receive lower subsidies, and those who choose costlier plans would need to pay more out of pocket. Those who choose the least expensive plans, however, could keep any money left over.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Rep. Ryan defended his controversial plan. He stated, “Forcing health plans to compete against each other is the best way to achieve high-quality coverage at the lowest cost, and implementing these reforms in Medicare can have the effect of lowering health-care costs for everyone.” Most Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, remain wary, and in the Senate the plan has been deemed a “non-starter.”

The proposal was approved by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday with a close vote of 19-18. It now moves to the House floor where it awaits further consideration.

Ten Cosponsors Sign on to Key Bills

This week, TSCL saw support grow for two key bills. On Tuesday, seven new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1332 and S. 2010), bringing the cosponsor totals up to 164 in the House and 11 in the Senate. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Janice Hahn (CA-36), Michael Honda (CA-15), Dennis Kucinich (OH-10), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), Albio Sires (NJ-13), Gary Peters (MI-9), and Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA).

The Social Security Fairness Act, if signed into law, would amend the Social Security Act by repealing the government pension offset (GPO) and the windfall elimination provision (WEP). These two provisions unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and others each year. TSCL believes that Congress should repeal the GPO and the WEP so that dedicated public servants receive the retirement security they deserve.

TSCL also saw support grow for the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 787) this week. Three new cosponsors – Reps. Tim Murphy (PA-18), Diane Black (TN-6), and David Schweikert (AZ-5) – signed on, bringing the total up to 73. This bill, if signed into law, would prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done illegally. TSCL supports this bill, which would protect the Social Security trust fund from further threats to insolvency. We were pleased to see support grow for it this week.