This week, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill and resumed work on a stopgap funding measure for fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1st. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for three key bills.
Continuing Resolution Debate Grows Complex
On Monday, Members of the House and Senate returned to Capitol Hill from the month-long August recess and quickly began working on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government past September 30th. Originally, leaders in both chambers agreed to keep the CR as “clean” as possible in order to avoid a government shutdown like last year’s and to allow lawmakers to quickly resume campaign work for the looming November 4th elections.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stated earlier this week, “What I hope to be able to do is keep the government open, to avoid a government shutdown, to do no harm, and to be as boring as possible.” The House planned to vote on a package that would simply extend current funding levels through mid-December on Thursday, and the Senate was set on taking it up next week.
However, leaders in the House postponed the vote and the discussion grew complicated after President Obama made a last-minute request to include funding for the training of Syrian rebels in the CR. “This is substantive policy change … Of course I would rather pass a clean, simple CR,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (MI-8), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, following the President’s request.
Now, Members of the House are planning to vote on a potentially revised CR next Wednesday, which means that the Senate will either be called back to Washington for a vote during their upcoming recess, or they will wait until they return at the end of the month, just days before the September 30th deadline.
It remains to be seen how the CR debate will unfold in the coming weeks, but TSCL will monitor it closely since another government shutdown could have serious effects on Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. For updates as the situation develops, visit the Legislative News section of our website.
Three Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Steve Israel (NY-3) – signed on to the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), bringing the cosponsor total up to twenty-four. If signed into law, H.R. 1030 would adopt the CPI-E for the purpose of calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Currently, COLAs are based upon the way young, urban workers spend their money – a method that underestimates the spending inflation seniors experience. H.R. 1030 would address this issue, resulting in more fair and accurate COLAs for seniors.
In addition, two new cosponsors – Reps. Alan Grayson (FL-9) and Lee Terry (NE-2) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795). The cosponsor total is now up to one hundred and thirty-three. If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.
Finally, two new cosponsors signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305) this week, bringing the total up to sixty-five. The new cosponsors are Reps. Tom Cotton (AR-4) and Matt Cartwright (PA-17). If signed into law, the PRIME Act would take a number of steps to comprehensively prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within Medicare and Medicaid – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly.
TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 1030, H.R. 1795, and H.R. 2305, and we were pleased to see support grow for each one this week.