Congressional Democrats ‘Draw Line In The Sand’ Over Social Security, Medicare Cuts
The November 3rd deadline for raising the Federal Debt Limit is fast approaching, bringing with it the risk of a U.S. credit default if Congress fails to act. Democrats in Congress have drawn an early line in the sand, saying they will reject any effort by Republicans to cut earned Social Security and Medicare Benefits as part of this fall's budget talks, according to Politico and a source familiar with the discussions. This means that Republican leaders in the U.S. House will likely have to rely on Democratic votes to increase the debt limit without any policy concessions. “We’re relieved to see our allies in Congress ‘take a stand’ for protecting Social Security and Medicare,” Alliance For Retired Americans President Robert Roach, Jr. said. “Congress ‘shouldn’t be using’ a national credit default as ‘blackmail’ in an effort to cut programs that are ‘important’ to Seniors.” A coalition of Conservatives that includes most House Republicans, the Republican Study Committee, last week outlined conditions it would demand that President Obama meet. These include $3.8 trillion in savings, mainly from programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and a balanced-budget constitutional amendment, which could not win Congressional approval without the leverage of a debt crisis. Due to party divisions, that’s unlikely to come up soon for a House vote. Also last week, the House passed legislation, by a vote of 235-to-194, by U.S. Representative Tom McClintock (Republican-California) that would require the government to pay its creditors and Social Security beneficiaries first and exempt those payments from the debt limit if the government runs out of cash. The idea is to preserve the "full faith and credit" of the government, even if there is a fiscal standoff. White House officials promise that President Obama would veto the bill, which Democrats like U.S. Senator Harry Reid (Nevada) have dubbed the Pay China First Act, since debt payments would get preference over other obligations like salaries for Federal Workers and the military, Medicare payments to providers, and medical care for Veterans and the poor.
Paul Ryan, Longtime Medicare Opponent, Likely To Be Next House Speaker
The talks in the House about raising the debt limit are being complicated by turmoil over who will be the next Speaker. Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan announced he would serve as Speaker if he could get the support of the full Republican Caucus and other conditions are met. U.S. Representative Ryan, of Wisconsin, has a long been a supporter of privatizing Medicare. While chairman of the House Budget committee, he authored the Republican budget resolution that would turn Medicare into a Voucher Program, reducing benefits for millions. He has also favored Social Security Privatization and in 2005 sponsored a bill that would have depleted the program’s Trust Fund and left Retiree Benefits vulnerable to the whims of Wall Street. “The ‘last thing’ this Country needs is ‘further development’ of Paul Ryan’s plans to ‘cut’ Social Security and Medicare by making him Speaker,” Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Peters, Jr. said.
CBPP: Lack Of Social Security COLA Will Cause $5 Billion Loss In Revenue
In addition to causing the Medicare Part B Premiums and Deductibles to increase by more than 50% in 2016, the recent announcement that there will not be a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) next year also means that the Taxable Maximum Wage will be frozen at current levels. If the maximum were allowed to rise as it does when the COLA goes up, the maximum income at which payroll taxes can be collected would rise from $118,500 to $122,700. Instead, the Social Security Trust Fund will forego about $5 billion in revenue next year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Alliance has produced a new fact sheet summarizing the effects the lack of a Social Security COLA would have on Medicare Beneficiaries. If you have not done so already, click here to -mail your members of Congress and tell them to support the Medicare Premium Fairness Act of 2015 (S. 2148 and H.R. 3696), which was introduced by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon) and U.S. Representative Dina Titus (Nevada), which would prevent massive Medicare increases to premiums and deductibles in 2016.
Social Security A 2016 Campaign Issue
Kenneth Walsh of U.S. News & World Report writes that Social Security is emerging as a campaign issue in 2016 “that Democrats could use to ‘embarrass’ Majority Republicans in Congress and put the eventual GOP presidential nominee on the defensive.” Walsh notes the 0% Cost-of-Living Increase (COLA) for Social Security recipients next year and writes there’s a growing movement, especially among Democrats, to pass legislation that would provide an increase as soon as possible. President Obama, many fellow Democrats in Congress and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton are urging quick action to provide that boost.