February 11, 2011

Republicans in House Begin Attempt to Block Funding for Health Care Reform

House Republicans are expected to bring their federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year up for a vote next week, and they have promised that it will contain $100 billion in cuts. While they have not fully disclosed which programs are on the chopping block, they have promised that they will add an amendment to the bill that will block Congressional funding for implementation of the health care law that the President signed last year. At a press conference on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters that “one way or the other” the House would produce a bill that blocks funding for the law. The amendment is expected to be added during the budget debate by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), the chairman of the House Appropriations panel that funds the Department of Health and Human Services. “We are truly disappointed that Republicans have continued to try and impede health care reform, especially since they have yet to offer a viable alternative,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

GOP Freshmen Try to Navigate Private Health Insurance Market

Upon assuming office in the 112th Congress, 16 freshmen Republican Representatives declined their federal health care benefits. By doing so, they have faced $1,200 monthly premiums, coverage restrictions, and fears that costs will go up. In short, they are experiencing problems that millions of Americans face every day, and which would be devastating to an average family making an average income. One such representative, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) says that his decision to decline federal health benefits will significantly affect his family, since his wife is due to have a procedure and she has a pre-existing condition. Because Walsh declined his benefits, they will have to pay out of pocket for her procedure.

While only 16 Representatives have declined their benefits, there are many Republicans who have gladly taken them despite their vehement opposition to health care reform.  As a result, these House Republicans, the very same ones who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are finding out just how hard it can be to navigate the health insurance free market. According toPolitico, the experience has caused some of them to think harder about the “replace” part of the “repeal and replace” mantra the GOP has adopted regarding the health care law. “It is amazing that these Members of Congress have seen first-hand what average Americans face, and would still be willing to repeal the health care law,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

The Senate Fight over Social Security Gains Steam

The battle over Social Security in the Senate is not getting any calmer. On one side, there are Senators like Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Rand Paul (R-KY). This week, Shelby proposed raising the age of retirement “every several years.” Meanwhile, Sen. Paul has stated that he has a plan to “fix” Social Security for 75 years in “one fell swoop.” He has not publicly announced what his plan will entail, but he has also hinted that he wants to raise the retirement age. One of their most strident opponents is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who helped form the Senate’s Defend Social Security Caucus. Whitehouse advocates against both privatizing the program and raising the retirement age, and he supports recommendations to apply the Social Security payroll tax contributions to income over $250,000. The budget President Obama will release on Monday won’t include any specific proposals to alter Social Security.

President’s Day Recess Activities

During the Congressional Recess February 21-25, many Alliance members will be reaching out to priority Members of Congress in their districts with our established Social Security message, so that elected officials hear that message early in the 112th Congress. If you are setting up an appointment with your elected official, or wish to attend a meeting, please tell us by sending an e-mail to ARAORGANIZING@retiredamericans.org and writing your state in the subject line.

New on the Alliance Website

The Alliance has six new Social Security-related fact sheets on several different topics, such as low wage earners, communities of color, and children, in both English and Spanish posted on our website. Here is a link to them: https://retiredamericans.org/issues/social-security. Also, check out the testimony that the Alliance submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee this week on the Affordable Care Act – and its impact on the Medicare program and Medicare beneficiaries – at http://bit.ly/ezHSDe.  Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) read from the testimony at a hearing on Thursday.

In addition, a recap of Alliance members’ State of the Union watch party experiences is available at http://bit.ly/htsEkC. Click on http://www.youtube.com/alliancefield for State of the Union watch party videos from Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and New Hampshire. Photos from the Arizona, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Washington state chapter parties are available at http://bit.ly/gaIsxx.

Retirees with the Write Stuff

Under the Alliance’s Retirees with the Write Stuff campaign, if you write a letter on any retiree issue and it is published, send us a copy and we will mail you a U.S. union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen.  Recent winners include: Keith Bailey, Sam Burnett, Jeanne Doyle, Lucy Edwards, Dan Fonte, Shane Fox, Barbara Franklin, Tony Fransetta, Dave Friesner, Shirley Gauger, Sheila Jackson, Judy Jobes, Lawrence Kaplan, Terry Lochhead, Richard Miller, Gerald Pollack, Marion Prajsner, Becci Robbins, Don Rowen, Clark Ruppert, Jr., and Bob Swope. Send your letter to ARACommunications@retiredamericans.org.

Alliance Convention: Save the Dates

Please help us commemorate our 10-year Anniversary at our upcoming Legislative Conference,Celebrating Our Past, Fighting for Your Future, which will take place September 6 – 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Be part of the discussion about the direction that our country should take concerning Social Security, Medicare, pension reform, and living in dignity! Any questions, please contact Joni Jones, Event Coordinator, at 202-637-5377.

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