Legislative Update for Week Ending January 9, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending January 9, 2015

This week, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill to begin the first session of the 114th Congress, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for several new bills.

114th Congress Begins with New Rules

This week, new and veteran lawmakers in the House and Senate converged on Capitol Hill to begin the first session of the 114th Congress. Members of Congress took their oaths of office on Tuesday, and shortly thereafter, lawmakers in the House formally re-elected Rep. John Boehner (OH-8) as the Speaker of the House for the third time.

Members in the House also voted on several rules this week – two of which will affect the Social Security and Medicare programs. The first rule will make it more difficult for lawmakers to transfer funds between Social Security’s two different trust funds. This change increases that chances that a 20 percent cut for Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries will go into effect at the end of next year, since lawmakers will not be able to simply take funds from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund to cover the DI program’s deficit as planned. This new rule also increases the chances of lawmakers taking up broad Social Security reform in the near future. Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23), the rule’s sponsor, stated: “As we get through the initial concerns … I hope the dust will settle and they’ll see this is a sincere effort to put a long-term solution together that works for everybody.”

The second rule will affect the future of the Medicare program by allowing lawmakers in the House to easily overturn the recommendations made by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB is a fifteen-member agency that was created by the Affordable Care Act to propose and modify the Medicare program in years when its growth exceeds target levels. The IPAB has not yet met and it currently has no appointed members, but this week’s new rule weakens the controversial panel’s potential power significantly.

The 114th Congress has just begun, and already, two noteworthy modifications have been made to the Social Security and Medicare programs. TSCL will continue to monitor the new Congress’s actions closely in the coming weeks, and we will post updates here in the legislative news section of our website.

TSCL Announces Support for Several New Bills

This week, several key bills were re-introduced by lawmakers in the House and Senate. First, TSCL announced its support for Sen. David Vitter’s (LA) Social Security Lock-Box Act (S. 20), which would safeguard both of Social Security’s trust funds. It would prevent lawmakers from using the monies for purposes other than to pay out benefits, which is a practice that TSCL feels is irresponsible and must be put to an end.

Sen. David Vitter also re-introduced the Notch Fairness Act (S. 99) this week, which would provide modest compensation to Notch victims – those who were born between 1917 and 1926 and are receiving lower Social Security benefits than those born before and after them. TSCL believes that some compensation for the Notch injustice should be provided, and we enthusiastically support Sen. Vitter’s S. 99.

TSCL also announced its support for legislation (H.R. 111) from Rep. Randy Forbes (VA-4) that would protect the Social Security and Medicare trust funds from the public debt limit. If the bill is signed into law, seniors will not need to worry about their benefits being delayed or disrupted in the event of a government shutdown, which TSCL believes is critical.

Finally, TSCL announced its support for a bill (S. 31) from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) that would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Upon introducing the bill, Sen. Klobuchar stated: “The fact that Medicare can’t negotiate for the best possible price on prescriptions makes absolutely no sense and is a bad deal for our seniors and our taxpayers.” TSCL agrees, and we look forward to helping Sen. Klobuchar build support for her bill in the coming months.