Legislative Update for Week Ending October 11, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 11, 2013

Budget negotiations continued this week, and leaders in Congress failed to reach a compromise that would end the government shutdown. In addition, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with several Members of Congress and their top aides, and three key bills gained support.

Budget Impasse Continues

A number of proposals to open the federal government and increase the debt limit were floated this week, but it remains unclear which path forward leaders in Congress will take. Early this week, the House voted to create a “supercommittee” comprised of ten Democrats and ten Republicans from both chambers that would be charged with ironing out a deal. That plan seems to have fallen flat, and it remains in the Senate’s hands.

Leaders in the House also backed a proposal from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-1) this week. His plan calls for a six-week debt limit increase with dollar-for-dollar budget cuts. It also includes the condition that during the six-week period, Members of Congress would have to overhaul the tax code and reform entitlement programs. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Rep. Ryan stated that his plan would include the “chained” cost-of-living adjustment and increased means-testing for Medicare beneficiaries. Many offered their support to the proposal, but TSCL was pleased to hear a number of lawmakers call the cuts to entitlement programs “nonstarters.”

A third proposal was floated by Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-8) in a meeting with President Obama on Thursday morning. It would increase the debt limit for six weeks, buying leaders time to negotiate a larger deal. In a statement released by Speaker Boehner’s office, he called the meeting “useful and productive,” and President Obama signaled that he would sign a debt limit extension with no strings attached to it. However, the proposal does not address the government shutdown, and many lawmakers are uncomfortable with it for that reason.

Much uncertainty over the path forward remains, and with less than one week to go before the debt limit deadline, it will likely be a busy weekend for lawmakers in Washington. TSCL will keep an eye on the evolving negotiations, and we will continue to inform Members of Congress about the harms that would result from harsh benefit cuts – like the adoption of the “chained” COLA – for seniors. For updates on the debate, visit the Legislative News section of our website.

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. Steve Womack (AR-3), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-2), Seana Cranston (Legislative Director for Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-4)), Garrett Fields (Legislative Correspondent for Rep. Bradley Schneider (IL-10)), Abby Dosoretz (Legislative Director for Rep. Trey Radel (FL-19)), Michael Pacheco (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Pete Gallego (TX-23)), and Lyron Blum-Evitts (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17)).

Three Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, four new cosponsors – Reps. Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), John Lewis (GA-5), Tim Ryan (OH-13), and Peter Visclosky (IN-1) – signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118). The cosponsor total is now up to thirty-seven. 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 a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, resulting in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments; and it would lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. H.R. 3118 would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund responsibly, and it would reportedly reduce the program’s seventy-five year actuarial deficit by 50 percent.

Two new cosponsors – Reps. Charles Rangel (NY-13) and John Delaney (MD-6) also signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to thirty-eight. If signed into law, H.R. 2305 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, one new cosponsor – Rep. William Keating (MA-9) – signed on to the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (H.R. 3090), bringing the total up to forty-four. If signed into law, the bill would expand the federal definition of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It would also incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding under the bill. H.R. 3090 would take an important step in preventing elder abuse – a problem that affects an estimated 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized older adults each year.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 3118, H.R. 2305, and H.R. 3090, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.