Legislative Update for Week Ending May 31, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 31, 2013

This week, Members of Congress adjourned for the Memorial Day holiday. Meanwhile, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released their annual report on Friday, one key bill was re-introduced, and two bills gained new cosponsors.

Congress Adjourns for Holiday Recess

Members of the House and Senate returned to their home states and districts this week for the holiday recess. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Monday, June 3rd, to a busy schedule. The Senate will soon take up the “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration reform bill, while Representatives in the House will continue working on a plan of their own. Leaders in both chambers hope to reach an agreement by the end of this summer. Until then, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) will continue to inform Members of Congress about the effects that immigration overhaul would have on Social Security and Medicare. We will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Trustees Release Annual Report

On Friday, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released their annual report on the financial standing of both programs. According to the report, Social Security’s financial outlook remains unchanged from last year, while Medicare’s has improved somewhat due to lower costs in health care spending. Social Security’s combined Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund will reach exhaustion in 2033, while the Disability Insurance (DI) program will be depleted in 2016 – just three years from now. Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will face insolvency in 2026 – two years later than last year’s projection.

While the Trustees seemed optimistic at a press conference on Friday afternoon, each of them spoke about the need for Congress to enact changes that would improve the solvency of the programs. In particular, they agreed that Congress must immediately address the financing shortfall of the Social Security DI program. TSCL agrees that lawmakers must act soon in order to ensure that seniors receive the retirement security they deserve and have earned. However, we believe that harsh benefit cuts should not be tolerated, and any changes should be phased in gradually in order to minimize the impact on beneficiaries.

Key Bill Re-Introduced

This week, TSCL announced its support for one key bill that was re-introduced. Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (TN-2) introduced the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2154), a bill that would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to establish and track a consumer price index specifically for senior citizens. Currently, Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners (CPI-W), which tracks the way young adults spend their money. That method underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience, and it results in slowly growing COLAs. According to one study conducted by TSCL this year, seniors have lost 31 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear sign that their benefits are not keeping up.

TSCL enthusiastically supports Rep. Duncan’s new bill, since it would establish a more accurate CPI for seniors. We look forward to working with him throughout the 113th Congress to build support for his new bill, and to help him pass it into law.

Two Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) – signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029), bringing the total up to twenty-nine. If signed into law, Rep. DeFazio’s bill would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, no income over $113,700 is subject to the 6.2 percent tax. According to Rep. DeFazio, the bill would reportedly add another fifty years to the solvency of the Trust Fund without cutting any benefits for seniors.

In addition, seven new cosponsors signed on to Rep. Rodney Davis’s (IL-13) Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to fifty-three. They are: Reps. Henry Waxman (CA-33), John Garamendi (CA-3), Bradley Schneider (IL-10), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Robert Wittman (VA-1), and Tim Murphy (PA-18). If signed into law, Rep. Davis’s bill 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 is very supportive of H.R. 1029 and H.R. 1795, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.