This week, members of the bicameral conference committee continued discussing potential budget solutions, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support.
Conferees Continue Budget Discussions
Members of the House adjourned for a week-long recess on Monday, but budget talks continued for the lawmakers that sit on the bicameral conference committee. While many have reportedly been meeting behind closed doors, Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT) took his message public in a news conference that announced his opposition to including entitlement cuts in a budget package. He said this week, “On these issues, Congress is way out of touch. The American people do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
Sen. Sanders organized a petition drive that has garnered 400,000 signatures so far, and he is hopeful that his campaign will help prevent the adoption of benefit cuts like the “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI). While some conferees seem to agree with Sen. Sanders, others feel that changes like increased Medicare means testing should be considered as part of a package to replace the automatic sequester cuts, which are scheduled take effect on January 15th.
Only five weeks remain before the conference committee’s December 13th deadline, and House and Senate appropriators are urging the conferees to settle on a top-line spending number even earlier – before the Thanksgiving recess begins on November 22nd. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said this week: “We believe that if an agreement on a discretionary spending number can be reached early, it will allow for more thoughtful and responsible spending decisions.”
Negotiations thus far seem to be moving slowly, and it remains to be seen whether or not the conferees will reach an agreement before the looming deadline. TSCL will keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations, and we will continue to inform the conferees about the harms that would result from including harsh benefit cuts in a budget package. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website.
Key Bills Gain Support
This week, two new cosponsors signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (S. 567 and H.R. 3118), bringing the total up to three in the Senate and thirty-nine in the House. The new cosponsors are Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) and Mark Pocan (WI-2). 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 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.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. David Valadao (CA-21) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795) this week, bringing the total up to ninety-five. If signed into law, the bill would repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year.
TSCL enthusiastically supports the Strengthening Social Security Act and the Social Security Fairness Act, and we were pleased to see support grow for both of them this week.