This week, President Obama released his fiscal 2015 budget blueprint. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) Board of Trustees traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with four lawmakers and their top aides, and TSCL saw three key bills gain support.
TSCL’s Board of Trustees Visits Capitol Hill
This week, TSCL’s Board of Trustees traveled to Washington, D.C. for their first meeting of the year. TSCL’s all-volunteer Board of Trustees includes the following members: Edward Cates, Chairman; Tom O’Connell, Vice-Chairman; Charlie Flowers, Secretary; John Martinez, Treasurer; Michael Gales, PAC Treasurer; Rick Delaney, President and Liaison of The Retired Enlisted Association; and Larry Hyland, Immediate Past Chairman of TSCL.
The Board joined TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, on Tuesday for a day of meetings with key lawmakers and their aides. The following bills, among others, were discussed: the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers CPI-E Act (H.R. 1030), the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), 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. Paul Cook (CA-8), Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), Justin Lawson (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35)), Claire Cozad (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Paul Cook (CA-8)), Kalina Bakalov (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL-8)), and Thomas Dorney (Legislative Assistant for Rep. John Lewis (GA-5)).
President Obama Releases 2015 Budget
On Tuesday, President Obama released his $3.901 trillion budget blueprint for fiscal 2015. The proposal calls for more than $650 billion in new revenues by closing certain tax loopholes, and it would replace the “sequester” beginning in 2016 with $1.2 trillion in new spending cuts. It adheres to the caps for discretionary spending that were set back in December, but it also proposes $56 billion in extra investments through the so-called “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.”
Regarding Medicare, the budget blueprint calls for increased means testing for Parts B and D, and it would increase out-of-pocket spending for new beneficiaries by charging them co-payments for home health services, and by adding a surcharge to certain Medigap plans. TSCL fears that these added costs for beneficiaries could result in some unforeseen consequences.
In addition, the budget proposal includes more than $350 billion in cuts to Medicare providers, including hospitals, post-acute care providers, skilled nursing facilities, and pharmaceutical companies. According to the White House, these cuts would add five years to the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund, but TSCL has concerns about how they would affect seniors’ access to quality medical care.
Regarding Social Security, TSCL was pleased to see that the President’s proposal did not include the “chained” CPI, as it did last year. Many in Congress were also relieved by its absence. Shortly after the blueprint was released, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) – founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus – said, “I am especially proud that the President did not renew his proposal to cut Social Security benefits. With … more people living in poverty than ever before, we cannot afford to make life even more difficult for seniors.”
While very little of the President’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2015 will be considered by those in the House and Senate, it does serve as an important benchmark for lawmakers. Members of the House Budget Committee are expected to unveil a proposal of their own in the coming weeks. In a statement made early this week, Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) said that it will “promote opportunity, reform our tax code, and save our critical safety net programs.” TSCL will continue to monitor the budget negotiations as they evolve, and we will provide updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
Three Key Bills Gain Support
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22) – signed on to the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 2745), bringing the total up to twenty-six. If signed into law, the bill would prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done illegally. Currently, those who receive “green cards” or work authorization may file a claim for Social Security benefits based on all earnings – even earnings from jobs where they used stolen, invalid, or fraudulent Social Security numbers. We believe that this practice must be put to an end in order to protect the integrity of the Social Security program.
In addition, one new cosponsor signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118), bringing the total up fifty-two. The new cosponsor is Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5). If signed into law, the bill would reform the Social Security program in three ways: it would adjust the benefit formula, resulting in more generous monthly benefits; it would adopt the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), resulting in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), and it would lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The bill would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors.
Finally, one new cosponsor – Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795) this week, bringing the total up to one hundred and fourteen. If signed into law, the bill would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year.
TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 2745, H.R. 3118, and H.R. 1795, and we were pleased to see support grow for each of them this week.