Latest on a Possible Shutdown of the Federal Government

September 27, 2013

On Thursday, top House Republican leaders rejected the short-term spending plan expected to be passed by the Senate in coming days, increasing the possibility of a government shutdown next week. Asked if the House would pass the bill unchanged once it is sent from the Senate, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replied, “I do not see that happening.”

 

According to The Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), using rules allowing him to change the wording of a spending measure passed last week by the House, is expected to strip out language that would defund the health reform law, change the expiration date on the funding bill to Nov. 15, and pass the measure with a simple majority achieved entirely with Democratic votes.

 

Once the bill returns to the House, any move to change it would by necessity mean that the fight over funding the government would almost certainly continue at least until the final minutes of the fiscal year late on Monday night, since the Senate’s rules would make swift consideration unlikely. More at http://tinyurl.com/p92kxgg.

 

Debt Ceiling: A Threat to Social Security and Medicare

While a relatively short shutdown may not imperil Social Security beneficiaries, the failure by lawmakers to raise the nation's borrowing limit could.

 

“The biggest risk to Social Security payments is the debt ceiling,” said Charles Konigsberg, who was assistant director of the White House budget office during the last shutdown.

 

If the ceiling isn't raised, the Treasury Department will eventually run short of funds to pay all its bills. The debt limit will be reached “no later than October 17,” Treasury secretary Jack Lew wrote to Speaker Boehner on Wednesday.

 

According to Bloomberg News, Senate Republicans have a strategy for lifting the U.S. borrowing limit: offer what President Barack Obama asked for in his budget, then dare him to refuse. Republicans would be willing to replace some of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs over the next nine years in exchange for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said.

 

In July, the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax policy, released drafts that include the Chained CPI formula to cut Social Security benefits, along with reducing payments to hospitals and other providers under Medicare. The ideas were borrowed from President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget and proposals put forward by his 2010 deficit-reduction commission. By contrast, in their budget plans, Republicans advocated converting Medicare to a voucher program and changing Medicaid to a state-based block-grant system. More at http://tinyurl.com/nhxxmce.
 

Human Chain Event to Take Place on October 3 at the U.S. Capitol

The Congressional Progressive Caucus plans to host a Human Chain press conference in opposition to the Chained CPI next Thursday, October 3 at 10 a.m. at the House Triangle. This Human Chain press conference follows the success of nationwide Human Chain events organized by the Alliance for Retired Americans in conjunction with our coalition partners on July 2, 2013.  The July 2 events took place in more than 50 cities with support from the labor movement, Social Security Works, and other allies. More than 20 Members of Congress have agreed to participate on October 3.  If you are in the DC area, please RSVP to attend here: http://tinyurl.com/oqq278r. Regardless of where you are, join the event remotely and share it with your friends and allies via this Facebook event: http://tinyurl.com/pylbnof.

 

“Activists are going to be heard at the right time – while budget issues are red-hot,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

 

Rep. Linda Sanchez’s Social Security Legislation Already Has 30 Co-sponsors

For a list of current cosponsors of H.R. 3118, the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez, (D-CA), go to http://tinyurl.com/ps8zvxa. Instead of offering a cold, calculated benefit cut like the Chained CPI, this legislation would actually increase annual Social Security benefits by an average of $800. “By using a cost-of-living formula like the CPI-E that more accurately reflects the expenses of Social Security beneficiaries, and by raising the cap on taxable income so that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share towards Social Security, we can extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund and provide better benefits to Americans who worked hard their entire lives,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

 

Social Security Benefits Likely to be Paid on Time Even if There is a Shutdown

According to CNN, in the event of a shutdown, it's very likely that the nearly 58 million people who receive Social Security benefits would still be paid on time. The money used to fund Social Security benefits is automatically authorized and not dependent on Congress coming to a compromise on a new federal spending measure by Monday night. However, what isn't automatically authorized is the money that Congress appropriates every year to run the Social Security Administration and pay its employees to process those benefits.

 

During the last two government shutdowns in the mid-1990s, Social Security checks were sent out on schedule. That happened even though the Social Security Administration was grossly understaffed during the first -- and shorter -- of the two shutdowns. It had kept on just under 5,000 employees. Once it realized how many more were needed to carry out essential duties, the agency was quick to staff up. By the second shutdown, which lasted 21 days, the agency required the majority of its employees (55,992) to keep coming to work, furloughing just 10,203 workers.

 

“Applicants for new benefits would be in much greater danger of facing delays than current beneficiaries would,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

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