Legislative Update for Week Ending November 6, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending November 6, 2015

This week, Members of Congress continued discussions about December's looming spending deadline, and Republican leaders in the House elected a new Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain new cosponsors.

Spending Debate Continues

Last week, lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a sweeping bill that will prevent a 20 percent benefit cut for disabled Social Security beneficiaries, avert a 50 percent Medicare Part B premium hike for 15 million enrollees, increase the government's borrowing authority through 2017, and set spending caps for the next two fiscal years. It was a significant accomplishment for leaders in both chambers, and President Obama signed it into law shortly after its passage.

However, one major deadline remains. Last week's deal set a $1.07 trillion spending cap for the remainder of the fiscal year, and now lawmakers must outline how those funds will be spent in order to avoid a government shutdown. They have until December 11th -- just five weeks -- to hammer out the details in an omnibus spending bill.

Republican lawmakers in the House met behind closed doors on Thursday morning to begin forming a plan. It's expected that some lawmakers will attempt to attach controversial policy riders to the deal, like language that would defund Planned Parenthood or Obamacare. One lawmaker, Rep. Steve King (IA-4), said: "The question is this: Do we challenge the president on anything? If we do, December 11 is the time to do it ... That debate and discussion needs to happen very shortly if there's going to be that kind of challenge and confrontation."

However, many feel optimistic that lawmakers will negotiate a "clean" deal before the looming deadline. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week, "My suspicion is that Speaker Ryan doesn't want to preside over a government shutdown six weeks after getting his new job."

It remains to be seen whether or not Members of Congress will successfully reach an agreement to prevent another government shutdown. TSCL will be keeping a close eye on the evolving discussions, and we will encourage lawmakers to avert a shutdown that would impact Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries negatively. We will post updates in the coming weeks here in the Legislative News section of our website.

House Elects new Chair of Ways and Means Committee

On Wednesday afternoon, the House Republican Steering Committee elected a new Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee -- the powerful panel that has jurisdiction over Social Security, healthcare, tax, and trade policy. The Steering Committee's thirty-three members elected Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-8) to fill the position that became vacant last week, after Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1) became Speaker of the House.

After winning the close contest against Rep. Pat Tiberi (OH-12), Chairman Brady said, "I'm honored to lead this talented committee because House Republicans and Speaker Paul Ryan are advancing a pro-growth agenda to get this country back on track. This includes taking real steps toward fixing this broken tax code, reforming welfare, saving Social Security and Medicare for the long term and enlarging America's economic freedom to trade."

TSCL will follow Rep. Brady's work as Chairman closely in the months ahead since it could impact Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. We will post updates here on our website.

Key Bill Gains New Cosponsors

This week, four new cosponsors -- Reps. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Dan Kildee (MI-5), Rick Larsen (WA-2), and John Sarbanes (MD-3) -- signed on to the Seniors Deserve a Raise Act (H.R. 3761). The total is now up to fifty-six.

If signed into law, the bill would do two things: it would give Social Security beneficiaries a 2.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) next year instead of the zero COLA the Social Security Administration announced three weeks ago, and it would base all future increases on an inflation index for the elderly. H.R. 3761 would make COLAs more fair and accurate for seniors, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.