March 25, 2015

The Honorable John Delaney
1632 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.   20515

Dear Representative Delaney:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to express our continued opposition to H.R. 1578, the “Social Security Commission Act,” legislation you and Representative Tom Cole introduced in the last Congress and which you reintroduced yesterday.

Your bill would require the proposed Commission to make recommendations for achieving solvency of the Social Security trust funds for 75 years.  While the bill does not specify how this solvency is to be achieved, in the January 25 edition of The Hill Congressman Cole predicted that the Commission would recommend cutting Social Security benefits:   “The commission would probably gradually raise retirement age, it would probably look at chained CPI, would probably look at means-testing and probably look at some sort of revenue, or reduce benefits for upper-income people.”  The National Committee strongly opposes these benefit cuts since the Social Security benefit is already inadequate.

We are troubled that H.R. 1578 takes several steps to circumvent a deliberative public process, limiting the participation of Social Security stakeholders and advocates.  For example, the Committees of jurisdiction over the Social Security program — the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means — would have limited input in the development of the Commission’s recommendations.  Under “fast track” procedural rules in your bill, the legislation embodying the Commission’s recommendations would be considered by Congress on an expedited, “take-it-or-leave-it” basis.  No amendments to the Commission’s bill could be offered and it could be passed in both the House and Senate by a simple majority vote.  Normally, Section 310(g) of the Budget Act and the Senate’s “Byrd rule” require 60 votes in the Senate to approve legislation which changes Social Security.

The National Committee believes limiting the ability of stakeholders to shape the debate would insulate lawmakers from the devastating effect benefit cut proposals would have on retirees, workers with disabilities and survivors.

Instead, 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 as occurred in 1983.  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.

Social Security does not face a crisis in funding.  Its trust funds hold $2.76 trillion in assets that, along with its dedicated stream of payroll tax revenue, are sufficient to ensure payment of all benefits due for two decades.  The real crisis unmentioned in your legislation is the growing number of working and middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security’s modest $1,284 average monthly benefit for all or most of their income in retirement.  To prevent millions of older Americans from falling into poverty, Social Security benefits should be improved rather than cut.  A more deliberative approach involving Congress and the American people would take this reality into consideration and is therefore a better way to address Social Security’s finances and benefit inadequacy than a commission process that limits debate against unpopular benefit cuts.

For that reason, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you why any Social Security Commission or reform proposal must address benefit adequacy in light of our growing retirement crisis.


Max Richtman
President and CEO

cc:  The Honorable Tom Cole