Legislative Update for Week Ending November 15, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending November 15, 2013

This week, members of the bicameral budget conference met publicly for the second time. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with a number of legislators and their top aides, and two key bills gained cosponsors.

Budget Conference Meets for Second Time

On Wednesday, the twenty-nine members of the bicameral budget conference met for their second public meeting, where they heard from Doug Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office. At Wednesday’s meeting, Elmendorf reviewed the short- and long-term economic outlook, and in his opening comments, he painted a grim picture for the conferees. He stated, “The tightening of fiscal policy built into current law … as well as ongoing uncertainty … represent continued headwinds to the economic recovery.”

Despite the significant challenges that the conferees face, Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (WA) left the meeting on a positive note. She stated, “We have had a number of discussions since our last meeting regarding the parameters of a potential deal, and I’m very encouraged by those conversations. They are going to continue in the days ahead, and I’m hopeful that we will get to a bipartisan compromise very soon.”

The conferees currently have less than one month to reach a budget deal, and many are hopeful that they will release a top-line spending number for fiscal 2014 before Congress adjourns for the Thanksgiving recess on November 22nd. Rep. Nita Lowey (NY-17), a conferee that also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said at Wednesday’s meeting: “If we don’t get that number by next week we’re not going to be able to work out the appropriations bills. It’s fine for people to talk about the long run and all that has to be done, but right now we need to get a number for the appropriations committees.” She urged the conferees to speed up the budget talks and “meet more often.”

It remains to be seen how successful the conferees will be in the coming weeks. So far, no real progress has been reported, and the co-chairs have not yet announced a date for a third meeting. TSCL will keep a close eye on the negotiations, and we will continue to advocate against any Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts in a budget package. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website every Friday.

TSCL Meets with Key Lawmakers

This week, TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, met with several Members of Congress and their top staff to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors. The following bills, among others, were discussed this week: the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act (H.R. 1030), the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 649), and the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574).

TSCL would like to thank the following for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss the issues that matter most to our members and supporters: Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7), Rep. David Joyce (OH-14), Rep. Scott Perry (PA-4), Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-4), Rep. Randy Weber (TX-14), Chris Fisher (Legislative Director for Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL-18)), Michael Stwarka (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2)), and Jeff Hild (Legislative Director for Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)).

Key Bills Gain Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) – signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to forty-eight. If signed into law, the PRIME Act would take a number of steps to comprehensively prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within the two programs – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly.

In addition, eight new cosponsors signed on to the Delay until Fully Functional Act (S. 1592 and H.R. 3359), bringing the cosponsor total up to thirty-one in the House and fourteen in the Senate. The new cosponsors are: Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Reps. Mark Meadows (NC-11), Chris Stewart (UT-2), Andy Harris (MD-1), David Joyce (OH-14), and Mike Coffman (CO-6). If signed into law, the Delay until Fully Functional Act would delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate for six months once the Government Accountability Office certifies that the exchange website is fully functional.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the PRIME Act and the Delay until Fully Functional Act, and we were pleased to see support grow for both of them this week.