Legislative Update for Week Ending May 1, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 1, 2015

This week, budget conferees released their fiscal 2016 blueprint, and lawmakers in the House voted in favor of it. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for one new piece of legislation – the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act.

Budget Compromise Released and Passed

On Wednesday, Sen. Michael Enzi (WY) and Rep. Tom Price (GA-6) – Chairmen of the Senate and House Budget Committees – released their fiscal 2016 conference budget resolution. Shortly thereafter, House lawmakers passed it along party lines, with a vote of 226-197.

The resolution outlines more than $5 trillion in spending cuts, calls for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and asks the committees of jurisdiction to come up with more than $400 billion in Medicare savings. If fully implemented, it would balance the budget within a decade.

Sen. Enzi, one of the leading negotiators, said in a statement: “Congress is poised to approve a 10-year balanced budget for the first time since 2001, which represents an important step in confronting the nation’s chronic overspending. This will help change the way we do business here in Washington to make the government live within its means – just like hardworking families.”

The budget blueprint now moves to the Senate, where leaders are expected to take it up as early as Monday. It will likely pass along party lines in that chamber too, with no anticipated support from Senate Democrats.

Following the blueprint’s release, Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT) – ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee – voiced his concerns, saying: “This budget gives huge tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires while making devastating cuts to education, Medicare, affordable housing, prescription drug coverage, and many other vital investments for the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor … This budget is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. It takes from the poor to give to the rich.”

Many other Democrats on Capitol Hill – including President Obama – seemed to share his concerns. However, since the budget blueprint is a resolution and not a bill, it will not require the signature of the President, and each of the proposals that appear in it – including the repeal of the ACA and the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid – will require the passage of separate legislation.

TSCL will keep a close eye on the fiscal 2016 budget resolution as it moves through the Senate in the coming days, and we will continue to voice our concerns about cuts to the Medicare program that would result in higher costs for beneficiaries. For updates on its movement, visit our new Facebook page.

TSCL Endorses New Legislation

This week, TSCL announced its support for the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (S. 960 and H.R. 1811), which was introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) and Representative Ted Deutch (FL-21). Their bill, if signed into law, would base Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) and it would gradually phase out the cap on income subject to the payroll tax over a period of seven years.

According to Rep. Deutch, the bill would extend the solvency of the Social Security trust funds for decades into the future by ensuring that the wealthiest Americans contribute to the program at the same rate as everyone else. Upon its introduction, he said, “Currently, most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck they earn to Social Security, while a corporate lawyer earning $400,000 pays an annual rate of just 1.71 percent and a CEO earning $2 million pays an annual rate of just 0.003 percent.”

TSCL supports the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act enthusiastically since it would extend the solvency of the program responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors. We look forward to working closely with Senator Hirono and Congressman Deutch in the months ahead to help build support for their important new bill.