This week, Members of the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, and Members of the Senate began negotiating a version of their own. In addition, two critical bills were re-introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) this week, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw six new cosponsors sign on to a key bill.
Lawmakers Turn Attention to CR
On Wednesday, Members of the House voted in favor of a CR that would fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year, capping spending at $982 billion – a $59 billion cut from fiscal 2012 spending. Just last week, many Members of Congress said they viewed the CR as a vehicle for replacing or re-designing the sequester, which took effect on March 1st. However, this week, they seem to have abandoned that approach, and many predict that most of the $85 billion in cuts will remain in place throughout the rest of the year. Last week, Sen. Richard Burr (NC) bluntly stated: “Are we going to roll back the size of the cuts? No. I can promise you that.”
The spending package that was passed in the House on Wednesday would give military and veterans programs some flexibility to soften the impact of the sequester, but it does not grant that ability to other agencies, and the cuts would go into effect as scheduled for them. The CR now moves to the Senate, and Members there are hoping to expand flexibility to three additional agencies, not including the Department of Health and Human Services.
With no comprehensive sequester replacement lined up, doctors who treat Medicare patients will see a 2 percent cut in reimbursements – a cut that TSCL fears could threaten seniors’ access to quality medical care. Lawmakers have until March 27th to continue discussion of the CR. In the meantime, we will continue to provide updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
Two Critical Bills Re-Introduced
On Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) re-introduced two key bills: the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030) and the Social Security Protection and Truth in Budgeting Act (H.R. 1031). The CPI-E Act, if signed into law, would amend the Social Security Act with regard to the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Currently, the COLA is based upon the spending patterns of young, urban workers. H.R. 1030 would base it upon the spending patterns of senior citizens by using the CPI-E – a change that TSCL feels would better serve seniors living on a fixed income.
The Social Security Protection and Truth in Budgeting Act, if signed into law, would ensure that the Social Security Trust Funds are not included in a unified federal budget, and it would mandate that Trust Fund monies cannot be diverted to create private accounts. By providing these protections, H.R. 1031 would prevent lawmakers from using Social Security’s “excess funds” for purposes other than to pay out benefits – a practice that TSCL feels is irresponsible and unfair to beneficiaries.
TSCL lends its enthusiastic support to H.R. 1030 and H.R. 1031, and we believe that both would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors have earned and deserve. We look forward to working with Rep. DeFazio throughout the 113th Congress to build support for both bills, and to pass them into law.
Key Bill Gains Six New Cosponsors
This week, six new cosponsors – Reps. Judy Chu (CA-27), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), and Jim McDermott (WA-&) – signed on to Rep. Ted Deutch’s (FL-21) Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649), bringing the total to eleven. If signed into law, Rep. Deutch’s bill would base Social Security cost-of-living adjustments on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), and it would gradually eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax.
TSCL is very supportive of Rep. Deutch’s bill, since it would make COLAs more accurate and extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds responsibly, without enacting benefit cuts. We were pleased to see six new cosponsors sign on to it this week, and we look forward to working with Rep. Deutch in the coming months to build more support.