Legislative Update for Week Ending September 11, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 11, 2015

This week, Members of Congress returned from the month-long August recess to a packed fall schedule. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain support.

Lawmakers Return for Busy Fall Session

On Tuesday, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill to begin the jam-packed fall session. Near the top of the agenda is the fiscal 2016 spending bill, which must be tackled by September 30 in order to avoid a government shutdown like the one that occurred two years ago. Leaders in both chambers have committed to preventing another shutdown crisis by passing a stopgap continuing resolution as early as possible.

However, many in Washington fear there may be another standoff in the coming weeks over demands that the bill include controversial measures. It remains to be seen whether leaders will be able to negotiate a deal before the deadline, which is just over two weeks away. If Congress does allow another shutdown to occur, Social Security beneficiaries could experience delays in their monthly checks and reimbursements for Medicare providers could be slowed down.

Also at the top of the Congressional agenda this fall is the looming debt limit deadline. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Treasury will exhaust its borrowing authority in late November or early December, and Congress will need to increase the debt ceiling in order to prevent a default.

The debt ceiling debate has been controversial in recent years, and this round is expected to be no different. This week, Members of the House Ways and Means Committee began taking steps to prevent a default by considering legislation that would allow the Treasury to issue debt outside of the limit, so long as it is not new debt.

This would allow the Treasury to continue paying out Social Security benefits in the event that the debt ceiling is reached. A press release from the Ways and Means Committee read: “Yes, this bill protects our seniors and people with disabilities. [The bill] gives the Treasury all the authority it needs to ensure … that Social Security benefits are paid in full and on time.”

In the months ahead, TSCL will keep a close eye on the evolving budget and debt ceiling negotiations – including the legislation that is currently under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee – and we will continue to advocate for solutions that would protect Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries from unnecessary disruptions. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website, or our new page on Facebook.

Key Bill Gains Cosponsor

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. John Culberson (TX-7) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 973), bringing its total up to 116.

If signed into law, H.R. 973 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce or eliminate the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 973, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.