March 2, 2021
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
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.
President and CEO