This week, lawmakers returned to Washington and quickly began working on legislation to stave off a government shutdown, which could occur on December 11th if Congress fails to reach a compromise. In addition, The Senior Citizens League saw two key bills gain support.
Spending Bill Dominates “Lame Duck” Session
The “lame duck” session of Congress began this week, and leaders in the House and Senate are hard at work on an omnibus measure that would fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year. Passing an omnibus in December, according to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (KY-5), would allow the new Congress to “get old business behind [it] and start off with a clean slate in January.”
However, it remains unclear if lawmakers will be able to successfully negotiate an omnibus before the December 11th deadline. Many in Congress are hoping to attach language to the spending measure that would block funding for an immigration executive order that President Obama is set to announce in the coming weeks. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, called the request a “deal-breaker,” and said that it would likely result in a veto from President Obama.
In addition, Many Members of Congress have gone on the record saying that they would prefer to pass a short-term spending measure that would provide funding only through March of next year. That way, Republican majorities in both chambers would have more leverage when the issue is revisited. In an interview last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS-1) stated: “It doesn’t make any sense to me to say, ‘Let’s negotiate before we have a better position.’” Many lawmakers in the House and Senate seem to feel the same way.
Despite these obstacles, Rep. Rogers and Sen. Mikulski have said they remain committed to passing an omnibus this year, and they have reportedly instructed their aides to have a line-by-line spending plan ready by December 8th. TSCL is hopeful that a compromise can be reached before the looming deadline, since failing to do so would likely have a negative effect on Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. In the coming weeks, we will continue to keep a close eye on the evolving discussions, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.
Two Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) – signed on to the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), bringing the bill’s total up to twenty-five. If signed into law, the CPI-E Act would base the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) upon the spending patterns of seniors. Currently, it is based upon the way that young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience. A study conducted by TSCL this year found that seniors have lost 31 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 – a clear sign that the current COLA is growing too slowly.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. William Keating (MA-9) – signed on to the Strengthening Social Security Act (H.R. 3118). The cosponsor total is now up to sixty-three. 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 base COLAs upon the CPI-E, resulting in more accurate annual increases; and it would lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The bill would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors.
TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 1030 and H.R. 3118, and we were pleased to see support grow for both of them this week.