Legislative Update for Week Ending May 30, 2014

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 30, 2014

This week, the immigration reform debate was revived in the House following an important announcement from President Obama. Meanwhile, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for one new piece of legislation, and two key bills gained support.

House Immigration Debate Revived

On Tuesday, President Obama directed Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to hold off on finalizing a plan to reduce the number of pending immigration deportations. Johnson was assigned the task back in March, and while the review will continue in the coming months, no results will be released until Congress adjourns for the month-long August recess.

According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the contentious decision was made with the hope of reviving the immigration reform debate in the House. A comprehensive bill was passed last summer in the Senate, and while Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-8) has said the House will not take it up for a vote, there is a small chance that a piecemeal approach to reform will succeed this summer, before the November elections. Carney said of the delay, “We wouldn’t want [the review] to create a reason not to act, or an excuse not to act.” Tuesday’s surprise announcement puts the spotlight on the House to take action this June or July.

It remains to be seen whether the decision to delay the review of deportation policies will result in any legislative action from the House. Should lawmakers take action, TSCL hopes that they will consider legislation from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) that would prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done illegally. The bill, titled the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 2745), would close a loophole that currently allows immigrants to collect Social Security benefits based on a history of illegal work.

TSCL will keep a close eye on the House immigration reform debate in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Announces Support for S. 2382

This week, TSCL announced its support for the Fair Raises for Seniors Act (S. 2382), which Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced on May 22nd. The bill, if signed into law, would adopt the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) for the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Currently, COLAs are based upon an index that tracks the spending patterns of young, urban workers, which underestimates the inflation that seniors experience. The bill would also apply the Social Security payroll tax to all income above $250,000, which would cover the cost of the CPI-E’s adoption and extend the solvency of the trust fund responsibly, without cutting benefits.

Upon introducing his bill, Sen. Merkley stated: “It’s time we stop talking about reducing Social Security benefits and instead focus on giving our seniors a raise … It is unacceptable to have an inflation formula that steadily erodes the purchasing power of Social Security benefits. Seniors deserve better.” TSCL enthusiastically agrees, and we are pleased to lend our support to the Fair Raises for Seniors Act.

Two Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, two new cosponsors – Reps. Robert Wittman (VA-1) and David Scott (GA-13) – signed on to the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (H.R. 1179). The cosponsor total is now up to one hundred and forty-seven. If signed into law, H.R. 1179 would amend current Medicare policy to count hospital stays under “observation status” towards the three-day requirement for skilled nursing care. Currently, those under “observation status” don’t qualify for coverage of the benefit, and they are often hit with large, unexpected bills after receiving necessary medical care.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to one hundred and twenty. If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.

TSCL strongly supports H.R. 1179 and H.R. 1795, and we were glad to see three lawmakers sign on as cosponsors this week.