Legislative Update for Week Ending May 26, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 26, 2017

This week, President Donald Trump sent his fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress, and one key Social Security bill gained support in the Senate.

Trump Sends First Budget Request to Congress

On Tuesday, President Trump sent his highly anticipated fiscal 2018 budget proposal to Capitol Hill. If adopted in its entirety, the blueprint would reportedly balance the budget within a decade through deep spending cuts totaling $1.7 trillion. While it would not directly touch Medicare benefits or Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program, it would make significant cuts to Medicaid and to Social Security’s Disability Insurance (DI) program.

The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) has serious concerns about several proposals in the budget blueprint that would be harmful to older Americans. If adopted, it would: move forward with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, further reduce funding for the Medicaid program – which provides long-term care for millions of senior citizens – by more than $600 billion, cut billions of dollars from the Social Security DI program, eliminate block grants that help fund Meals on Wheels for those in need, and provide no administrative budget increase to the severely under-funded Social Security Administration.

The budget proposal does nothing to reduce skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and by repealing the Affordable Care Act, it would create an immediate funding crisis for the Medicare Part A Trust Fund.

Several Members of Congress expressed concerns about the budget blueprint on Tuesday. Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11) – Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus – told The New York Times: “It probably is the most conservative budget we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades … Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far.” Similarly, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (WY) called the blueprint a “suggestion” and reminded reporters that Congress – not the President – “will ultimately decide what the nation’s fiscal priorities will be.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate will likely vote on President Trump’s blueprint at some point in the near future, but its chances of winning passage in either chamber are slim. Instead, House and Senate Budget Committee Members are expected to craft their own versions and reconcile the differences before the fiscal year begins on October 1st. In the meantime, TSCL will continue to advocate on Capitol Hill against budget cuts that would jeopardize the health and financial security of older Americans.

For updates on the progress of the fiscal 2018 budget, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Key Senate Bill Gains Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Senator Chris Murphy (CT) – signed on to bipartisan legislation called the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 915). The cosponsor total is now up to seven, and support for the bill is split evenly between parties with three Democrats, three Republicans, and one Independent signing on.

If adopted, the bill would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two provisions of the Social Security Act that cut the earned benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public servants each year. Because these individuals receive pensions from their state or local governments, their monthly Social Security checks are arbitrarily reduced when they retire, often by one-half or more.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the Social Security Fairness Act since we believe it would go a long way in reconciling the inequity many public servants face when they retire. In the coming months, we will continue to advocate for its passage, and we will post updates in the Bill Tracking section of our website.