Legislative Update for Week Ending October 4, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 4, 2013

Federal agencies shut down this week as Members of Congress failed to adopt a stopgap funding measure before the October 1st deadline. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain support.

Congressional Impasse Results in Shut-Down

On Tuesday, the federal government shut down for the first time in seventeen years due to a legislative impasse between leaders in the House and Senate. Four days in, neither side has wavered much from its position. Leaders in the Senate are pressuring the House to pass a “clean” temporary funding measure, while leaders in the House continue to demand provisions that would delay or defund the Affordable Care Act.

So far, 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed, and Members of the House have begun taking a piecemeal approach that would send some of them back to work by providing funding for certain agencies. However, the Senate has rejected each bill. Leaders in that chamber believe a piecemeal approach will set a bad precedent and give the opposing political party “veto power over what is funded and what isn’t,” according to Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY).

Despite the fact that leaders are holding steadfast on their positions, a small bipartisan group in the House proposed a plan on Thursday that would fund the government for six months and repeal the health care law’s controversial tax on medical devices. The leaders of the bipartisan group – Reps. Ron Kind (WI-3) and Charlie Dent (PA-15) – believe their proposal represents a fair compromise that both sides can support.

It remains to be seen how long the impasse will last, and whether or not Congressional leaders will lend their support to the bipartisan group’s plan. Currently, no clear end to the shutdown is in sight. The Senate will remain in session over the weekend, and Members of the House have been told to stay in Washington for possible votes. The government shutdown should not have any effect on the daily lives of seniors, but TSCL will closely monitor the discussions for any developments, and we will continue to post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Key Bill Gains Support

This week, three new cosponsors – Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), and Robert Scott (VA-3) – signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118). The cosponsor total is now up to thirty-three. 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. TSCL enthusiastically supports the Strengthening Social Security Act since it would extend the solvency of the Trust Fund responsibly, without cutting benefits. We were pleased to see support grow for it this week, and we look forward to helping build support for it in the coming months.