The House of Representatives returned to work this week after the traditional August recess. The Senate, however, does not come back until next week.
The August recess is a tradition that dates back to the early days of our republic when there was no electricity and, therefore, no air conditioning. Washington was so hot and miserable in August that the members of Congress wanted to get out of town and go somewhere cooler. Even though the weather in Washington is still hot and miserable in August, the excuse to leave town is no longer valid because of air conditioning, of course.
The members of Congress still cling to that particular tradition even though by the time they come back to town in September they have less than a month to complete their work to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year which begins October 1. If they were able to get their work done on time like they used to the August recess would make more sense.
Prior to their recess the House of Representatives was able to pass 10 of the 12 spending bills that are needed to fund the government for fiscal year 2020. However, as has been the case for several years, the Senate lags behind. As a result, the Senate has been discussing combining various spending bills instead of passing them one by one.
That is not as easy as it might seem but if they Senate is able to accomplish that whatever it passes must then go to a House/Senate conference committee which will have to come up with one bill that must then go back to each house and pass before it goes to the President for his signature. With just three work weeks left before October 1 it will have to be a marathon if they are to finish their work on time.
During the August break an old and ugly threat to Social Security and Medicare surfaced once again. The Congressional Budget Office released its forecast of future federal government deficits. It said that deficits are expected to climb to over $1 trillion in fiscal year2020, which begins this October 1. And they will keep going up in the years after that.
According to one non-profit government watch-dog analysis, “... legislation enacted since 2015 could be responsible for more than half of the deficit in 2020 and 2021. In other words, recent policymakers are responsible for doubling near-term budget deficits.”
In short, since 2015 Congress apparently forgot about the deficit and went on a spending spree. But suddenly, it has become a crisis again. Or has it become a convenient excuse for doing what a lot of them have wanted to do for a long time: cut Medicare and Social Security benefits?
Because of the deficit projections some members of Congress have once again, raised the issue of balancing the federal budget on the backs of senior citizens.
According to a news report we've seen, groups that support President Trump are urging him to take a “hard look at mandatory spending, the root cause of the United States' fiscal woes.” And when they say “mandatory spending” they are talking about Social Security and Medicare.
Two powerful Senators from the President's party have also discussed this issue. According to the same report, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota has said, “We’ve got to fix that. It’s going to take presidential leadership to do that, and it’s going to take courage by the Congress to make some hard votes. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. I hope in a second term, he is interested,” Thune said of Trump. “With his leadership, I think we could start dealing with that crisis. And it is a crisis.”
In addition Senator John Barrasso, the third ranking Republican in the Senate, has stated that members of his party have “brought it up with President Trump, who has talked about it being a second-term project.”
Let's be clear about this. No one is saying that the effort to cut Medicare and/or Social Security will come this year or next.
But should President Trump win a second term there will be pressure on him from members of his own party and some of his long-time supporters to violate his pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare when he ran for President the first time.
Should that come about you can be sure that TSCL will be fighting as hard as we can to stop any new attempt cut those programs that you've earned with your years of hard work and contributions to them and that you now depend on.
For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.