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Which Washington Member of Congress is Going After Social Security?

A new proposal has Social Security and Medicare in the crosshairs. Here’s what you can do.

Social security cuts

There’s a lot of scaremongering out there about Social Security’s financial situation – but the bottom line is simple: the Social Security 2023 Trust Fund report projects that this essential program can pay all benefits in full and on time until 2033. After that, approximately 77 percent of benefits will be paid, even if Congress takes no action.

This would clearly not be an ideal outcome – but it’s also not the end of Social Security. And there’s an equitable and straightforward way to maintain full benefits after 2033: make sure everyone pays the same tax rate for Social Security on all of their income.

Given Social Security’s economic* and social** importance to Washington residents, you’d think our representatives in Congress would be busy working to make sure that happens. Instead, one member of Washington’s Congressional delegation has cosponsored legislation that would likely result in Social Security benefit cuts – and only two members are on record in opposition.

Fiscal hawks want Social Security cuts – and they have a surprising partner in Washington State

Reasonable people can disagree over how much the nation should borrow to finance its budgets. That has nothing to do with your Social Security benefits – zero, nada, zilch. Don’t believe me? Just ask Ronald Reagan. But many of today’s conservative politicians (who back cuts in federal funding for everything from food stamps to education, national parks and more) do have their knives out for Social Security.

Take, for example the House Republican Study Committee. In September, the members proposed raising the age for full Social Security benefits to 69 (equivalent to a 13 percent benefit cut), recommended two additional benefit cuts for future beneficiaries, and proposed new limits on Disability Insurance. These changes amount to $718 billion in benefit cuts to Social Security over the next 10 years.

The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee has since advanced legislation (H.R. 5779) which would create a fiscal commission. That commission would meet in secret to develop wide-ranging budget recommendations related to programs with Trust Funds – with no protections for Social Security or Medicare. Then, it would fast-track those changes through Congress (with debate limited to only two hours, a simple majority vote sufficient to overrule amendments, and a straight up-or-down vote on all recommendations).

And yes, this probably sounds both awful and familiar. That’s because this fiscal commission is a supercharged version of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which also proposed cuts in the wake of the Great Recession.

Why haven’t more Washington lawmakers taken a stand against the commission?

On January 11, one hundred and sixteen members of Congress sent a letter opposing the fiscal commission. Of Washington’s delegation, just two people signed it: Rep. Rick Larson (District 2) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (District 7).

In a surprising move, Washington’s own Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Democrat, District 3) actually co-sponsored the fiscal commission legislation. Perez ran her campaign on common-sense changes that would benefit, not harm, workers. She even excoriated her election opponent Joe Kent for his plans to cut Social Security, and said she supports raising the cap on taxable wages – but she clearly supports the proposed fiscal commission. It’s tough to square that circle.

Where do other lawmakers stand?

The rest of Washington’s delegation has been…pretty quiet, including Rep. Suzan DelBene (Democrat, District 1), Rep. Dan Newhouse (Republican, District 4), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican, District 5), Rep. Derek Kilmer (Democrat, District 6), Rep. Kim Schrier (Democrat, District 8), Rep. Adam Smith (Democrat, District 9), Rep. Marilyn Strickland (Democrat, District 10).

Six of them (DelBene, Jayapal, Kilmer, Larsen, Smith, and Strickland) are cosponsors of the Social Security 2100 Act, which would expand Social Security benefits and improve its funding outlook by increasing taxes on the wealthy. But none seem to be on record against a fiscal commission that has a very real likelihood of massively undermining Social Security.

Take action to protect Social Security

If your member of Congress (find out who that is here) didn’t sign the letter opposing the Commission, now is the time to reach out and let them know how you feel. The House Speaker could hold a vote on the fiscal commission’s recommendations right after the November 2024 elections. This would allow lame duck Republicans and Democrats to vote without consequence, and give those aiming for reelection in 2026 two years until they have to face their constituents.

Below is some language you can use for your message. Be sure to make it your own – for example, by describing why Social Security is important to you and/or your family.

Here’s our suggested email:

The Fiscal Commission Act (H.R. 5779) passed by the House Budget Committee provides the Commission with authority to meet in secret and recommend cuts to Social Security and Medicare without open public debate and hearings.

Once the Commission sends their recommendations to Congress, the legislation requires very limited hearings and debate by the House and Senate, no amendments, and an up or down vote. Such a Commission is disrespectful and a genuine threat to seniors, people with disabilities, and to the democratic process.

I expect you to take a strong public stand against the Commission. A vote for the Commission is a vote to cut Social Security and Medicare. I believe you have an obligation to protect your constituents from cuts to benefits we have earned through many years of work. In an era of enormous wealth inequality, Congress should not be threatening earned benefits that are critical to the health and economic well-being of seniors, children, and people with disabilities.

Instead, I urge you to enact legislation that fully funds Social Security by requiring contributions to Social Security on all wages (scrapping the taxable income cap currently set at $160,200) and taxing investment income, so the wealthy pay their share into Social Security just like those who are working for a paycheck.

Social Security represents the best of American values: rewarding hard work, honoring our parents, and providing help for those unable to care for themselves. Let’s make sure Washington’s members of Congress are working to keep it that way.

*In December 2022 alone, more than $2.3 billion in Social Security benefits went directly to Washington’s local economies, generating significant economic activity and tax revenue throughout the state.

**Social Security is the primary insurance protection for 95 percent of Washington’s 1.8+ million children and families. In the event a parent or spouse were to die or be disabled, without Social Security benefits, more than twice as many children would live in poverty. In 2022, over 105,000 widow(er)s and children in Washington received an average $1,591/month for survivor’s benefits; nearly 226,000 disabled workers and their families received an average $1,362/month.

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