Legislative Update for Week Ending September 27, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 27, 2013

This week, Members of the Senate debated a stopgap spending measure, which will temporarily fund federal agencies if it is signed into law. In addition, three bills backed by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) gained new cosponsors.

Senate Debates Stopgap Spending Bill

With only three days remaining before the September 30th deadline, it remains unclear whether or not lawmakers will successfully avert a government shutdown. The House-passed stopgap spending bill is currently before the Senate, and final votes are scheduled for Friday afternoon. The Senate is expected to pass an amended version of the bill, which will eliminate provisions that would defund the Affordable Care Act and move up the bill’s expiration date by one month, from December 15th to November 15th.

If the amended version is adopted by the Senate, the bill will return to the House, where leaders will need to decide whether they will make further amendments to it. The “high stakes game of ping pong,” as Congressional Quarterly called it, is expected to continue throughout the weekend. Complicating matters, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew notified Congress on Wednesday that the government will hit the debt ceiling by October 17th. Members of Congress will need to renew the government’s borrowing authority before then in order to for it to meet its debt obligations.

Funding negotiations will continue throughout this weekend, and it appears as though they will persist in the coming weeks as lawmakers move on to the debt limit debate. TSCL will keep a close eye on the discussions, and we hope that lawmakers will compromise to prevent any negative impacts on Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.

Three Key Bills Gain Support

This week, two new cosponsors signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to thirty-six. The new cosponsors are Reps. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Jim Gerlach (PA-6). If signed into law, the bill 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. Steve Israel (NY-3) – signed on to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (OR-4) No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029), bringing the total up to thirty. If signed into law, Rep. DeFazio’s bill would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, no income over $113,700 is subject to the 6.2 percent tax. According to Rep. DeFazio, the bill would reportedly add another fifty years to the solvency of the Trust Fund without cutting benefits for seniors.

The Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118) also gained one new cosponsor this week, bringing the total up to thirty. The new cosponsor is Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1). If signed into law, H.R. 3118 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. The bill would reportedly reduce Social Security’s seventy-five actuarial deficit by 50 percent.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 2305, H.R. 1029, and H.R. 3118, and we look forward to helping build support for them in the coming months.