Thurs 3/4: Romney’s TRUST Act is a “Trojan Horse” to cut seniors’ Social Security benefits!

Seriously. A lot of Democratic senators fell for this!

Minimal script for senators who voted FOR the Trust Act amendment in the 2021 budget: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Sen. [Feinstein] to make sure that Sen. Mitt Romney’s TRUST Act, which could endanger Social Security, is NOT included in the final COVID relief bill. Sen. [Feinstein] voted for this amendment to the 2021 budget. Perhaps [he/she] did not appreciate how it would circumvent legislative norms for changing Social Security and would allow cuts to be made to benefits without regard to how they would affect [his/her] constituents who depend on them.

Minimal script for senators who voted AGAINST the Trust Act amendment in the 2021 budget:: I’m calling from [zip code] to thank Sen. [Padilla] for voting against Sen. Mitt Romney’s TRUST Act, as an amendment to the 2021 budget, and to ask him to speak out against it being included in the COVID relief bill. This malicious amendment could endanger Social Security by allowing cuts to be made to benefits without regard to their human impact.

The amendment was voted into the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget as  S. Amdt. 803 to S. Con. Res. 5. Senator Feinstein voted “YES” and Senator Padilla voted “NO“. Find your own senator’s vote here.

Note: If you haven’t made this call yet on adding unemployment tax relief and automatic stabilizers to the American Rescue Plan, do it at the same time.

Contacts – Call/EMail

  • Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
  • and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884 (Updated local office contacts still in-progress.)
  • Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com

Deeper Dive

Today’s “Deep Dive” consists of an article from the Hill and a letter from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.

Romney’s TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors’ benefits

An insidious piece of legislation affecting Social Security and Medicare may be working its way into the COVID-19 relief bill. We had hoped that Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) TRUST Act was moribund after it went nowhere in the last Congress. But it has come back to life as an amendment to the FY 2021 budget resolution that the Senate passed in February. Now, Romney may offer the TRUST Act as an amendment to the COVID relief bill — a dangerous idea that has no place in legislation intended to ease, not exacerbate, Americans’ financial pain.

Meanwhile, there is no need to cut a program that has been a financial lifeline for retirees for 85 years. One of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inspirations for establishing Social Security in 1935 was seeing American seniors literally living in poor houses. Today, the average Social Security beneficiary receives a modest $1,543 per month — or about $18,500 a year. Without Social Security, 38 percent of seniors in the wealthiest country in the world would fall into poverty. Nearly half of all beneficiaries rely on Social Security for all or most of their income.

Despite Social Security’s role in providing seniors with baseline financial security, the TRUST Act does not require its “rescue committees” to consider the adequacy of current benefits — or the human impact of potential cuts. Retirees would be relegated to the status of figures on a balance sheet. This is not an acceptable outcome for our parents, grandparents, and friends who depend on their monthly Social Security checks.

As an amendment to the COVID relief bill, the TRUST Act would be a Trojan Horse to circumvent legislative norms for changing Social Security. The Congressional Budget Act and the Byrd Rule specifically prohibit any modifications to Social Security through budget reconciliation — the vehicle Democrats are using for COVID legislation. But the TRUST Act could sneak its way into law on the coattails of COVID relief.

Why this back-door approach to cut Americans’ earned benefits?  Romney and other ‘fiscal hawks’ (the same ones who voted for the deficit-swelling Trump/GOP tax cuts) can see that Social Security and Medicare are politically popular. Polling consistently indicates overwhelming support for these programs (and opposition to benefit cuts) across party lines. In fact, recent surveys suggest that the public supports expanding Social Security and asking the wealthy to pay their fair share by adjusting the payroll wage cap. Both of these provisions are in President Biden’s plan and in Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act. Romney and his fellow ‘entitlement reformers’ would obviously prefer that any cuts to earned benefits be executed under the cover of ‘rescue committees’ and rushed to a floor vote.

Unfortunately, a number of Senate Democrats voted for the TRUST Act in February as part of this year’s budget resolution. We urge them to reconsider their position — and to oppose the TRUST Act as part of COVID relief legislation. Democrats must reject Republican attempts to undermine our nation’s most successful social insurance programs — crucial legacies of the New Deal and Great Society. Today’s workers and tomorrow’s retirees expect nothing less...”

Letter to House Opposing the TRUST Act

March 2, 2021

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.   20515

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I write to urge you to oppose any attempt by the Senate to include the TRUST Act (S. 4323 in the 116th Congress) as an amendment to the House-passed COVID budget relief reconciliation bill.

On February 5th, by a vote of 71-29, the Senate approved S. Amdt. 803 to S. Con. Res. 5, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Resolution, which created a “reserve fund” allowing for consideration of the TRUST Act. This “reserve fund” laid the groundwork for a similar amendment that could be offered on the Senate floor to include the TRUST Act in the COVID relief reconciliation bill.

The TRUST Act would create so-called “Rescue Committees” that would draft legislation to address the solvency of federal trust funds, including the Social Security and Medicare funds. Once the respective Rescue Committees approve a trust fund bill, the legislation would receive expedited consideration in the House and Senate with no opportunity for amendment and little time for meaningful debate.

The TRUST Act does not specify how solvency would be achieved, thus opening the Social Security and Medicare programs to whatever broad array of across-the-board cuts that the proposed committees may choose to offer. The process created is nothing more than a back-door mechanism for enacting cuts to these essential programs that would not be possible through the normal legislative process.  What’s more, the bill fails to require the committees to consider the importance of benefit adequacy given the growing number of working and middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security for all or most of their income in retirement or how Medicare benefit cuts would undermine the health security of seniors and people with disabilities.

The reconciliation process is a powerful tool for enacting legislation with a simple majority of votes in the Senate. To protect Social Security from cuts through this expedited process, both the Congressional Budget Act and the Byrd Rule specifically prohibit including any changes to Social Security’s retirement, survivors, or disability programs in reconciliation legislation. Violation of these rules could not only jeopardize our country’s most vulnerable citizens through cuts to Social Security but could subject the reconciliation bill to points of order under Congressional Budget Act Section 310(g), which, if upheld, could bring down the entire legislation. Our country is in desperate need of the many benefits in the COVID relief bill; they should not be placed at risk through an ill-advised and little-debated amendment on the Senate Floor to cut Social Security.

The National Committee believes that fast-track consideration of Social Security and Medicare legislation required by The TRUST Act would circumvent a deliberative and regular order process, limiting the participation of Social Security and Medicare stakeholders and advocates in the debate.  That’s why we have opposed this bill since it was first introduced in October 2019.

The committees of jurisdiction should hold hearings, develop legislation, and vote on the consensus package that they develop under the regular rules of the House and Senate.  Adhering to regular order, while perhaps more challenging for legislators, would ensure that the public has an opportunity to express their overwhelming support for Social Security and Medicare and opposition to unpopular benefit cuts.

We urge you to oppose any effort to enact the TRUST Act or similar fast-track Social Security and Medicare legislation as part of the COVID relief reconciliation bill.

Sincerely,

Max Richtman
President and CEO

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