Pelosi passes gavel to “younger” generation

Published in RINewsToday on Nvember 21, 2022

With the dust settling after the mid-term elections and GOP taking control of the lower-chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), followed by the No. 2 Democratic, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), will give up their leadership positions although both will keep their Congressional seats next year.

“While [House Majority Whip] Jim Clyburn [D-SC] has ceded his No. 3 position, he’s now seeking to remain in leadership next year in the No. 4 assistant leader slot,” reports Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell, in a Nov. 19 article, “Democrats’ Leadership Shakeup in Decades Takes Shape with No Drama – Almost,” on the website, The Hill. In a letter to his Caucus members, Clyburn makes his case to stay in leadership by saying he would be a benefit to the new leadership team coming in next Congress.

Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987. Since 2003, Hoyer and Clyburn have led the House Democratic Caucus.

Kudos to retiring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Last Thursday, Nov. 17, Pelosi, 82, announced on the House floor that she would not seek a Democratic leadership role in the 108th Congress.  This came after the House lost its Democratic majority to the Republicans, albeit by a small margin.

“And with great confidence in our Caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” she said. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility,” said Pelosi, the first and only woman who served as House Speaker and led the Democratic House Caucus for over two decades.

With a slim Republican majority in the House, President Joe Biden had encouraged Pelosi to stay as House Speaker for the last two-years of his term. After her announcement, the President recognized her legislative accomplishments and serving her San Francisco constituents for over 35 years. “With her leading the way, you never worry about whether a bill will pass. If she says she has the votes, she has the votes,” he said.

“Speaker Pelosi, as President Biden said, will be remembered as the most consequential Speaker in our nation’s history. A key part of that role is empowering the next generation, and ensuring that the Democratic Caucus has strong leadership moving forward. I am thrilled that the Speaker will continue to serve in the 118th Congress, representing her home of San Francisco, and enabling the Caucus to continue to learn from her and benefit from her wisdom and experience,” says Congressman David Cicilline, representing RI Congressional District 1.

Cicilline calls Pelosi a brilliant political tactician 

In a statement released after Pelosi took to the House floor to step down from House Democratic leadership, Cicilline stated:   

“Today is a bittersweet day for our country as we mark the end of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the leader of the House Democratic Caucus. I have been lucky enough to serve with and learn from one of the greatest political minds in our country for the past twelve years and am honored to call her a mentor, and most importantly, a close friend.  I remain in constant awe of her brilliance, toughness, and dedication to service. Nancy Pelosi led our party to the majority twice and saw our country through some of the toughest times in our nation’s history including the COVID pandemic and the attack on our democracy on January 6, 2021.” 

“The House Speaker’s historic career will not just be remembered for the barriers she broke but also for the incredible progress she delivered for the American people and her beloved San Francisco, said Rhode Island’s Senior Congressman.

According to Pelosi’s House leadership, the Democrats were able to reform the nation’s delivery of health care, deliver accessible and affordable care to millions of Americans, make the largest investment in infrastructure improvements and climate change mitigation in the country’s  history, also ensuring that every single American got the relief they needed and deserved as they faced a once in a lifetime global pandemic.  Pelosi also “protected the nation’s democracy against those who sought to overturn the election result and destroy the very fabric of our nation,” he said.

“Speaker Pelosi has always supported my work since I first came to Congress in 2011 and has been a steadfast ally on gun safety legislation and LGBTQ+ equality. I am also grateful for the trust she placed in me to serve as an impeachment manager following the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, says Cicilline.  

“In addition to our work in Washington, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming her to Rhode Island many times, where her grandparents first met, and am thankful for her focus on delivering for every American and all Rhode Islanders,” noted the Rhode Island Congressman.

Cicilline added: “Having come from big, loving Italian families, we both learned from a young age the importance of putting family first and looking after our neighbors. We share a commitment and belief that every hardworking American deserves the ability to provide a safe, warm home for their children and the opportunity to get ahead. She has helped to deliver monumental legislation to empower Americans, including the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, providing paid parental leave for federal workers, expanding educational opportunities and student aid, and increasing the minimum wage.” 

“An outspoken proponent of equality, she has been a champion of the Equality Act and the Respect for Marriage Act and led the repeal of the homophobic ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to finally allow every member of our nation’s military to serve fully as themselves,” said Cicilline, noting that her “trailblazing 35-year tenure in Congress, 19 of those as Democratic Caucus leader, have been defined by her unwavering commitment to service, the American people, and belief that each of us deserves the chance to live our own American Dream.”   

Adds says Congressman-elect Seth Magaziner. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has served this democracy here and around the globe, while never losing sight of what matters most: rebuilding the American Dream for working people across the country.” 

“I thank Speaker Pelosi for her tremendous leadership and am excited for the next generation of leaders that will tackle the biggest questions of our time— rebuilding our middle class and creating a fairer economy, fighting climate change, and turning the page on Trump-extremism once and for all,” added Magaziner.

“Nancy Pelosi not only has been master of legislative procedure, a unifier of her caucus, a skilled tactician – and someone who broke the ‘marble ceiling’ for women in the halls of Congress. She shepherded several crucial pieces of legislation through Congress to improve the health and well-being of older Americans, including the Affordable Care Act and the Inflation Reduction Act,”  says Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM).

“She will be missed as a leader and a champion for our most vulnerable citizens,” says Richtman, noting that NCPSSM looks forward to a continued working relationship on issues vital to America’s seniors with whomever emerges as the next Democratic leadership team in the House.

During Pelosi’s announcement the Republican side of the chamber was nearly empty except for a few members, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana). Scheduled meetings kept House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy from attending Pelosi’s noontime announcement that she was stepping down as the House Democratic leader. Later he would tell reporters, “I had meetings but normally the others would do it during votes — she could’ve done that, I would’ve been there,”  he said.

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) noted that he had frequently disagreed “forcefully” over the years he congratulated the Democratic House Speaker on “concluding her historic tenure” and her “consequential and path-breaking career.”

Is Passing the Political Touch a Good Thing?    

At press time, Reps, Hakeem Jeffries, 52, of New York, Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar, 43, of California are jockeying for the top three Democratic House leadership slots.

“The new leadership team is great, but it should not be exclusively composed of young lawmakers,” says Robert Weiner, former Chief of Staff to Congressman Claude Pepper’s House Select Committee on Aging, former White House staffer, who has written over 1,000 Op Eds published in major media outlets throughout the nation.  

Many characterize Pelosi, Hoyer, and Cyburn stepping down as the “passing of the political torch,” in the House, from one generation to the next, even though the new up and comers are in their 40s and 50s. Weiner questions, “Is this a good thing to celebrate.”

“I am very concerned about the lack of aging leadership with all the wisdom and guidance leaving the podium. “I have written about age discrimination including it occurrence in politics,” says Weiner, calling for voters to decide when it is time to go.

Will the new leadership team take guidance from the outgoing House Democratic Leadership Team?  “We will see how the new team seeks and takes the advice of recent leadership that had such success or puts them on the shelf,” says Weiner.

Speaker Pelosi: Bring Larson’s Social Security proposal to a floor vote 

Published in RINewsToday on September 12, 2022

On the 87th Anniversary of Social Security, the Washington, DC based Social Security Works (SSW) hosted a “Social Security Town Hall Meeting” to get the word out about the importance of passing the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. 

The virtual town hall meeting brought together House lawmakers, aging advocates and beneficiaries to send a strong message to House Democratic leadership to support the markup of Congressman John Larson’s (D-CT) social security proposal to expand and strengthen Social Security and send it to the House floor for a vote.

The town hall participants, including host Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, Larson, chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Peter Morley, Patient Advocate and co-founder of Health Care Awareness month, and John Blair, who chairs the Community Advisory Board, SPACE in Action, strongly supported quick action and passage of the legislative proposal. Additionally, several members of Congress also pre-recorded videos which were played at the end of the town hall meeting.

Town hall participants used the Aug. 15th virtual town meeting to highlight polls that show Democratic and Republican voters strongly support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security, and to call on House leader Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on Larson’s legislative proposal prior to the upcoming mid-term elections.  

Throughout the hour-long internet discussion, they also condemned the recent attacks on Social Security from Senate Republicans. Specifically, Sen Ron Johnson has called for Social Security spending to be considered “discretionary spending” and subject to routine budget negotiations, even though the program is self-funded by workers. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), chairing the GOP’s committee to re-take the Senate, also has proposed a plan where Social Security would have to be renewed by Congress every five years. And finally, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is pushing for passage of the TRUST Act, which could fast-track legislation to cut Social Security benefits. 

“Social Security has provided our nation with the most comprehensive retirement, disability, and survivors benefits for 87 years,” said Larson. “Democrats are fighting to expand and protect it, yet my Republican colleagues have plans to cut benefits and even end the program as a whole,” he noted.

Larson noted that Congress had not acted in 50 years to enhance benefits. “The American people have made clear they want to protect the program they pay into with each and every paycheck so they can retire with dignity,” he said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting our country and Republicans revealing their plans to end benefits, there is a fierce urgency to protect and enhance Social Security now. Alongside commemorating 87 years of this program, Congress must pass Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust to make much needed benefit improvements and ensure this program can serve our nation for years to come. Congress must vote!” he said. 

Congresswomen Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Caucus Progressive, representing 100 lawmakers made an urgent call for the protection and expansion of Social Security. “It’s not an entitlement program,” she said, stressing that it is an earned benefit.

“The work we have to do to make sure that this earned benefit pays out the dividends that keep up with the requirement and needs of our Social Security benefit is what H. R. 2100 is all about,” she said, pushing Larson’s Social Security legislative proposal.  

Like Larson, Jayapal calls Social Security the most successful antipoverty program in this country.  “It has lifted more than 20 million Americans out of poverty, including one million children and more 16 million older Americans.  It provides a lifeline to over 16 disabled persons.,” she says.

Julian Blair, Chair of the Advisory Board, SPACEs in Action, called for Congress to get behind expanding and protecting Social Security. “Expanding Social Security …will allow us seniors, and many other people who depend on Social Security, to live with a little dignity—a right all of us have earned and should expect to receive from our country,” she said.

 Peter Morley, Patient Advocate & co-founder of Health Care Awareness Month, who is permanently disabled,” urged that Congress overhaul the and expedite the process for patients applying to SSDI and SSI. “They should not have to wait for years. It’s a tragedy and a shame on our country,” he said.

Urgency to Act Now

Four days before SSW’s virtual town meeting, Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) gave his thoughts as to the need to expand and strengthen Social Security in an opinion piece, “Let’s Honor Social Security’s 87th Anniversary by Strengthening and Expanding it,” published on the digital site, The Hill.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law 87 years ago, he didn’t “intend for it to remain frozen in place” but would need to be expanded with the nation’s changing demographics,” says NCPSSM’s Richtman.

“In fact, during the first 40 years of Social Security, Congress expanded the program no less than 15 times – mostly to broaden coverage and increase benefits.  In 1950, Social Security was expanded to cover domestic and agricultural workers.

In 1956, Congress added monthly disability benefits, which is why millions of workers with disabilities collect Social Security today. The 1972 amendments provided annual cost-of-living adjustments  (COLAs) to help beneficiaries keep up with inflation,” states Richtman. 

“Sadly, benefits have not been significantly improved since then. Instead, lawmakers have prioritized keeping the program’s trust fund solvent amidst waves of retiring baby boomers. In 1983, Congress increased the payroll tax and raised the retirement age gradually from 65 to 67, which was, in effect, a benefit cut. It was ‘hard medicine’ that affects retirees four decades later. At the time, Congress had little choice because it waited so long to act that Social Security was just months away from being unable to pay full benefits,” added Richtman in his opinion piece.

Like Larson and Jayapal, Richtman also called for strengthening Social Security and in his opinion, piece, urging passage of the Social Security 2100 Act, that expands Social Security benefits and extends the life of the trust fund. At press time, this legislative proposal has 208 cosponsors in the House. The legislative proposal has not one Republican supporting it and some moderate Democrats still haven’t endorsed it.

Richtman also expressed strong concern about the Republican proposals to cut and privatize Social Security if they take over leadership of the House and Senate Chambers. “When Congress returns from summer recess, Democrats have a limited window to enact the Social Security 2100 Act before the midterm elections and subsequent lame duck session, observes Richtman.

According to Richtman, under Larson’s legislative proposal, all beneficiaries would receive a 2 percent increase in boost in benefits — with special increases for widows and widowers, lower-income workers, and retirees over 85 years of age. Future COLAs would be based on a new inflation formula – the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly –  that more accurately reflects seniors’ spending patterns. 

Richtman says that Larson’s Social Security proposal would increase the flow of tax revenues into Social Security. Currently, he noted that high earners do not contribute to Social Security on wages exceeding $147,000. Under this proposal, wages above $400,000 also would be subject to payroll taxes. 

Overwhelming support for the Social Security’s proposal for passage

With the midterm elections just 57 days away, Congress must move quickly to bring Larson’s Social Security 2200 Act to the House floor for a vote.  Even with President Biden and 208 Democratic House lawmakers calling for a House vote on Social Security 2100 Act, it has been reported that Wendell Primus, House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s senior staffer on domestic policy issues, has advised his boss to pull the Social Security proposal from markup, reportedly over cost concerns, effectively derailing Larson’s efforts to get a House vote on his legislative proposal.

Almost 40 aging groups have joined 208 House lawmakers in advocating for expanding and protecting Social Security benefits received by over 70 million Americans.  Primus must rethink his position opposing House consideration.  If the GOP retains control of the House and Senate chambers, Democrats will not be able for years to improve the financial health and expand Social Security benefits. The GOP will control the House and Senate’s legislative agenda. Congressional Democrats and aging advocacy groups would be put in the defensive position to keep the program that we know so well in existence.

For details about the Social Security 2100 Act, go to https://larson.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/larson.house.gov/files/Social%20Security%202100%20-%20Fact%20Sheet%20117th.pdf

To watch the livestream event, “Social Security Town Hall Meeting,” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xycabwQSurI

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Larson Pushes to Get Social Security Reform Proposal for House Vote

Published in RINewsToday on June 13, 2022

The House Ways and Means Committee is preparing for a full mark-up on H.R. 5723, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, authored by Committee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT) this summer. Last week Larson held a press conference calling for passage of the legislative proposal. 

The morning press conference, held on June 2nd at the Connecticut AFL-CIO headquarters, based in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, brought together Connecticut AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne, Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans President Bette Marafino, State Senator Matt Lesser, State Senator Saud Anwar, State Representative Amy Morrin Bello to announce the endorsement of H.R. 5723 by the AFL-CIO.  The AFL-CIO is known as the nation’s largest federation of unions, made up of 56 national and international unions, representing more than 12 million active and retired workers.

On the same day, the Social Security Administration released the 2022 Social Security Trustee Report.

According to Larson’s statement, over 200 House Democrats [no Republican has yet to support the proposal], are cosponsoring H.R. 5723. Forty-two national organizations (aging, union, veterans, disability and consumer health organizations) are calling for passage of H.R. 5723, including the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations and the Strengthen Social Security Coalition representing hundreds of national and state aging organizations.

Larson noted that it has been 50 years since Congress acted to expand Social Security benefits. The Connecticut Congressman stated: “By passing Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, we can act now to expand our nation’s most effective anti-poverty program and ensure this program remains a ‘sacred trust’ between the government and its people. It is an honor to stand alongside the AFL-CIO today as they announce their support for our legislation.”

“Social Security benefits are a promise made to workers and Social Security 2100 is essential in fulfilling this promise,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne. He praised Larson’s efforts to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision that harms Connecticut’s teachers, firefighters, and police officers by reducing social security benefits they earned because they are receiving pensions after years of dedicated public service.

“Retirees and those most vulnerable in our society depend on Social Security to live a life of dignity. The Connecticut AFL-CIO and our over-200,000 members stand in solidarity with Congressman Larson in his fight to ensure Social Security is a promise we keep for generations of Americans to come,” said Hawthorne.

State Senator Saud Anwar, (D-South Windsor) joined Larson and others, too, supporting H.R. 5723. “Social Security has long been an American institution, one relied upon and paid into by countless citizens who receive a promise that they will be taken care of,” said the Connecticut Senate’s Deputy President pro tempore. “We must take action to expand this program and ensure this vital service will remain available for future generations, and Social Security 2100 will do just that. I am grateful for Connecticut’s federal representatives in their work to support our communities, our state and our country,” he said.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who introduced the companion bill to H.R. 5723 in the Senate could not be there, but issued this statement: “As seniors and people with disabilities struggle with the costs of food, housing, and prescription drugs, this bill enhances and expands benefits for millions of Americans who need them. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and union members to support the Social Security 2100 Act, keeping this vital lifeline solvent ensuring our nation’s bedrock social insurance program will continue to provide current and future beneficiaries with a quality standard of living,” said Connecticut’s senior Senator. 

H.R. 5723: The Nuts and Bolts

On Oct. 26, 2021, H.R. 5723 was referred to the House Ways and Means, Education and Labor, and Energy and Commerce Committees, being introduced in the lower chamber that day.

According to a legislative fact sheet, H.R. 5723 gives a benefit bump for current and new Social Security beneficiaries by providing an increase for all beneficiaries (receiving retirement, disability or dependent benefits).

Larson’s Social Security fix also protects Social Security beneficiaries against inflation by adopting a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), to better reflect the costs incurred by seniors who spend a greater portion of their income on health care and other necessities.

This legislative proposal protects low-income workers by providing a new minimum benefit set at 25% above the poverty line and would be tied to wage levels to ensure that minimum benefits does not fall behind.

It also contains other provisions that seniors and their advocates have sought for years, including:

  • Improving Social Security benefits for widows and widowers in two income households so they are not penalized for having two incomes.
  • Ending the five-month waiting period to receive disability benefits so those with ALS or other severe disabilities no longer have to wait.
  • Providing caregiver credits for Social Security wages to ensure that caregivers are not penalized in retirement for taking timeout of the workforce to care for children and other dependents.
  • Extending Social Security benefits for students to age 26 and for part-time students.
  • Increasing access to Social Security dependents for children who live with grandparents or other relatives.                       

H.R. 5723 would pay for strengthening the Social Security Trust Fund by having millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as everyone else. Currently, payroll taxes are not collected on an individual wages over $142,800. The legislative proposal would apply payroll taxes to wages above $400,000, only impacting the top 0.04% of wage earners.

Larson’s proposal would also extend the solvency of Social Security by giving Congress more time to ensure long-term solvency of the Trust Fund.  It also cuts long-term shortfalls by more than half.

Finally, H.R. 5723 would combine the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance with Disability Insurance into one Social Security Trust Fund, to ensure all benefits will be paid.

NCPSSM Pushes for Passage

Even with over 200 cosponsors, a Washington insider says that H.R. 5723 may be stalled because of concerns of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) policy staff about the cost of the proposed legislation.  At press time, House lawmakers are waiting for the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to score the legislation [to determine its cost], this being required to bring it to the House floor for a vote.

In a blog article, posted on May 27th by the Washington, DC-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), seniors are urged to request their House lawmakers, if they are not currently cosponsoring H.R. 5723, to support Larson’s landmark legislation to strengthen Social Security.  According to the NCPSSM, Reps. Cynthia Axne (D-IA) Susie Lee (D-NV) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) are among the 22 Democrats that have not yet sponsored H.R. 5723. With the upcoming mid-term elections just 148 days away, these Democratic lawmakers may fear Republican attacks, accusing them of raising taxes, speculates NCPSSM.

“The more Democratic co-sponsorships the bill garners, the stronger the case that House leadership should bring it to the floor for a vote,” says NCPSSM.

NCPSSM reports that Larson’s Social Security proposal has strong public support. “A poll by Lake Research Partners showed that across party lines, 79% supported paying for an increase in benefits by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security as everyone else. A recent survey of our members and supporters indicated 96 percent support for raising the cap,” says the Social Security Advocacy group.

NCPSSM says Larson’s legislative proposal gives Democrats an opportunity to build upon, strengthen, and expanding the Social Security program, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. 

Many feel it is time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to use the power of her office, responding to over 200 Democrats in her Caucus, to bring H.R. 5723 to a House Ways and Means Committee and floor vote.  If the Republicans take control of the House and Senate Chambers, Social Security reform to expand and strengthen Social Security may be in jeopardy, so time is of the essence to supporters to see H.R. 5723 passed and enacted.