Action on Capitol Hill slowed down this week as Members of Congress returned to their home states and districts for the holiday recess. However, lawmakers serving on the bicameral budget conference did make slight progress toward a deal, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for one key bill.
Thanksgiving Recess Begins
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress adjourned for the Thanksgiving recess this week. Members of the House are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Monday, December 2nd, and Members of the Senate are expected to return on the following Monday – December 9th.
While adjourned, lawmakers serving on the twenty-nine member bicameral conference will continue budget talks behind closed doors. Only two weeks remain before the December 13th deadline, and no deal has been reached yet. However, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has reported that the leaders of the conference – Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1) and Sen. Patty Murray (WA) – are making progress.
The two have reportedly narrowed their focus toward a plan that would “provide some sequester relief” and set “new discretionary spending levels for appropriators for two years.” CQ has also reported that none of the plans under consideration would make fundamental changes to Social Security or Medicare, or to the tax code.
If the conference committee fails to reach a deal by the December deadline, the federal government will face another shutdown, and a second round of automatic spending cuts under the “sequester” will take effect on January 15th. TSCL will continue to monitor the negotiations of the conferees, and we will post updates here in the legislative news section of our website.
Key Bill Gains Support
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14) – signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118). The cosponsor total is now up to forty. If signed into law, the bill would reform the Social Security program in three ways: it would adjust the benefit formula, resulting in more generous monthly benefits; it would adopt the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), resulting in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), and it would lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The Strengthening Social Security Act would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors. For that reason, TSCL enthusiastically supports the bill, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.