This week, the House Budget Committee met to discuss retirement security in America, and The Senior Citizens League saw three key Social Security bills gain support in Congress.
House Committee Discusses Retirement Security
On Wednesday, lawmakers on the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled: “Keeping Our Promise to America’s Seniors: Retirement Security in the 21st Century.” Committee members heard from several expert Social Security witnesses, including Congressman John Larson (CT-1) – Chairman of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.
Last month, the Social Security Trustees released their annual report on the program’s financial outlook, and they projected that Social Security beneficiaries will face a cut in benefits if lawmakers fail to pass legislation to extend the program’s solvency past 2035. In order for reforms to be phased in gradually and with minimal impact on current or future retirees, Congress will need to adopt comprehensive Social Security reform legislation in the very near future.
In his opening statement, Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (KY-3) said: “[Social Security] is facing serious long-term funding shortfalls, with promised benefits facing cuts as high as 20 percent as soon as 2035 if Congress does not act. Cuts of this level would be devastating for the individuals who rely on Social Security … Congress has a responsibility to act and honor the promise of retirement security.”
Lawmakers at Wednesday’s Budget Committee hearing discussed potential solutions to the solvency challenge, including the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860), introduced by Congressman John Larson (CT-1) and cosponsored by more than 200 House lawmakers. Congressman Larson, who testified before the committee members on Wednesday, outlined his Social Security reform proposal in detail.
If adopted, his bill would: provide beneficiaries with a 2 percent boost in benefits, improve the adequacy of the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by basing it on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), create a new minimum benefit set at 125 percent of the poverty line, and cut taxes for millions of seniors who pay taxes on a portion of their Social Security benefits. The bill would also extend the solvency of the Trust Funds by applying the payroll tax to income over $400,000 and gradually increase the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 7.4 percent.
Congressman Larson’s bill would comprehensively reform the Social Security program by enhancing benefits and improving the solvency of the Trust Funds for decades to come. He said at Wednesday’s hearing: “The Social Security 2100 Act will expand and enhance Social Security, making the program financially stable through this century and beyond. It is the only legislative proposal that expands benefits, is fully paid for, and achieves sustainable solvency as determined by the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration.”
The Senior Citizens League agrees that the Social Security 2100 Act is a fair and responsible solution to the financing challenges facing the program, and we are proud to have endorsed the it. In the months ahead, we will advocate for its passage tirelessly, and we hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year.
Three Key Bills Gain Support in Congress
This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for three important bills that would strengthen the Social Security program if signed into law.
First, one new cosponsor, Representative Dean Phillips (MN-3), signed on to Congressman Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860), bringing the total up to 206. If adopted, this critical bill would strengthen and reform the Social Security program responsibly, without enacting benefit cuts for current or future retirees. It would also cut taxes for millions of seniors and create a new Special Minimum Benefit set at 125 percent of the poverty line.
Second, four new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141), bringing the total up to 169. The new cosponsors are Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Bradley Byrne (AL-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), and Josh Harder (CA-10). This bipartisan bill, if adopted, would make the Social Security program more equitable by repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). These two provisions of law unfairly cut the Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state or local government employees, often by 40 percent or more. By repealing both provisions, the Social Security Fairness Act would ensure that public servants receive the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve.
Third, one new cosponsor, Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-8), signed on to the bipartisan Fair COLA for Seniors Act (H.R. 1553), bringing the total up to twenty-seven. If adopted, this bill would better protect the purchasing power of Social Security benefits by adopting a more adequate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Under current law, COLAs underestimate the inflation seniors experience because they are based on the way young, working Americans spend their money. As a result, Social Security benefits have lost 33 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 according to our research.
The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for these three bills this week, and we thank the new cosponsors for their support. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for the passage of the Social Security Fairness Act, the Social Security 2100 Act, and the Fair COLA for Seniors Act, and we urge Congress to enact them this year.