This week, Members of Congress continued working on a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government operating past October 1st. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for one new piece of legislation, and two key bills gained support.
Work on Funding Bill Continues
In a controversial political maneuver, Members of the House passed a bill on Friday that would keep federal agencies funded through December 15th, but withdraw spending for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The bill is now in the hands of the Senate, where leaders will likely attempt to strip it of the language that defunds the health care law. When asked how he plans to move forward with the House bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) said: “Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead. It’s a waste of time.” The bill has also received numerous veto threats from the White House.
At this point in time, it remains to be seen whether or not lawmakers will successfully avert the October 1st shutdown. Leaders in the House have already cancelled the week-long recess that was scheduled to begin on September 23rd, and according to Congressional Quarterly, a Senate vote on the measure could come as late as September 29th – just one day before funding for federal agencies expires.
TSCL is hopeful that lawmakers will find a solution before the end of this month, since a government shutdown could negatively impact Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. We will continue to keep an eye on the evolving negotiations, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
TSCL Announces Support for New Bill
On Wednesday, TSCL announced its support for the Strengthening Social Security Act (S. 567 and H.R. 3118). Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) introduced the bill in the Senate, and Reps. Linda Sanchez (CA-38) and Rush Holt (NJ-12) introduced the companion in the House. 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. According to Rep. Sanchez, these three changes would preserve the Social Security Trust Fund through 2049, reducing the seventy-five year actuarial deficit by approximately 50 percent.
TSCL enthusiastically supports the Strengthening Social Security Act since it would extend the solvency of the Trust Fund responsibly, while also making benefits for seniors more fair and accurate. We look forward to working with Sen. Harkin and Reps. Sanchez and Holt in the coming months to help build support for their bill.
Two Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. John Fleming (LA-4) – signed on to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (CA-48) No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 2745). The total is now up to twenty-four. If signed into law, Rep. Rohrabacher’s bill would prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done illegally. Currently, those who receive “green cards” or work authorization may file a claim for Social Security benefits based on all earnings – even earnings from jobs where they used stolen, invalid, or fraudulent Social Security numbers. TSCL believes that this practice must be put to an end in order to protect the integrity of the Social Security program, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Sen. Christopher Murphy (CT) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 896) this week, bringing the total up to fourteen in the Senate. If signed into law, S. 896 would repeal two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year. TSCL believes that the two provisions – the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset – must be repealed before the end of this year so that dedicated public servants receive the retirement security they have earned.