Legislative Update For Week Ending May 18, 2012

Legislative Update For Week Ending May 18, 2012

Deficit talks continued on Capitol Hill this week as Congressional leaders met with President Obama to discuss the deficit, and the Senate considered several budget resolutions. Meanwhile, The Senior Citizens League expressed support for a new piece of legislation, and two new cosponsors signed on to a key bill.

Deficit Debate Continues

This week, President Obama met with Congressional leaders to speak about the looming deficit, a series of tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year, and the sequester which was created under last summer’s debt limit law and will take effect at the beginning of 2013.

Experts have warned that allowing the tax cuts to expire and permitting the sequester to take effect in January could throw the economy into a deep recession. Congress, however, is not likely to take up either issue before the November election, and it may not have the time needed to properly deal with the issues during the lame duck session.

Many on Capitol Hill announced this week that they are prepared to pass a temporary solution. Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) stated, “We ought to work on it, we ought to try, we ought to make our proposals. But my guess is an extension is almost inevitable.” Similarly, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (WI) stated, “The duration of the extension I think is probably up for negotiation, but I think most people are thinking we’ll have some kind of an extension into the 2013 window.”

Also this week, Members of Congress proved that they are unlikely to make any movement on deficit reduction before the November election. The Senate rejected five budget resolutions on Wednesday: three were original plans introduced by Republican Senators, one was based on President Obama’s budget proposal, and one was the House-adopted plan created by Budget Chair Paul Ryan. None of the five garnered a significant number of votes, and interestingly, the plan based on President Obama’s budget received zero favorable votes. It appears that efforts to reduce the deficit will be limited in the coming months. Nevertheless, TSCL will continue to monitor the evolving negotiations.

TSCL Announces Support for SGR Repeal Bill

This week, TSCL was pleased to lend its support to Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (PA-13) Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 5707). If signed into law, the bill would repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physician reimbursements, and it would set up a five-year trial period during which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would test and evaluate new payment and delivery models.

TSCL believes that the SGR formula breeds uncertainty in the Medicare program for both physicians and beneficiaries. Many doctors have stopped accepting Medicare beneficiaries as patients because of the SGR, and even more are threatening to do so if a permanent solution is not established. To preserve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to quality care, we believe that Congress must repeal and replace the SGR. Rep. Schwartz’s bill would do just that, and we were pleased to lend our support to it this week.

Key Bill Gains Support in Senate

Two new cosponsors – Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Patrick Leahy (VT) – signed on to Sen. John Kerry’s Social Security Fairness Act (S. 2010) this week. The cosponsor total is now up to sixteen.

If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal two provisions of the Social Security Act – 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 other state or local government employees each year. TSCL believes that Congress should repeal the GPO and the WEP so that dedicated public servants receive the retirement security they deserve.