U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to urge you to oppose the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 when it comes to the House Floor for a vote. This bill would result in dramatic cuts to a wide range of programs essential to the health and well-being of our nation’s seniors. Instead, the National Committee urges you to take up and pass ‘clean’ debt limit legislation, not only to protect our nation’s economy, but also to prevent the risk of significant economic harm to over 65 million Americans who receive benefits through the Social Security program and the 63 million beneficiaries who receive health care through Medicare.
While the Limit, Save, Grow Act has been promoted as a mere negotiating tactic intended to pressure the President into compromising on future spending levels, in fact it is a bill that identifies the misguided priorities of its supporters for the American people. Millions of Americans rely on the programs that would be slashed by this legislation, and to them, this bill is more than merely a theoretical negotiating ploy. If the spending cuts and other legislative changes that are incorporated in this legislation were to ever become law, the negative impacts would be felt by virtually every American family in every Congressional District in the country.
The proposed legislation to raise the debt limit includes among its provisions a roll-back of all discretionary federal spending to Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 levels in FY 2024, with growth limited to one percent annually for the next decade. This is not the minor trimming of spending that has been portrayed by some, but a dramatic slashing that will have devastating impacts on the Americans who rely on the affected programs for their health and well-being. If applied across-the-board, limiting spending to FY 22 levels would result in a cut of six percent to all agencies for FY 24. It is inevitable, however, that the cuts will not be applied evenly to all programs and agencies, because it has been made clear that areas such as defense and veteran’s health will not be cut but could instead be increased. If these programs are shielded from cuts, this will result in at least a 23 percent reduction to all other programs for FY 2024, with the potential for the cuts to grow much higher if the protected programs receive increases or the list of exempt programs expands.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a key agency that would be negatively impacted by such a dramatically reduced funding level. Adequate funding for SSA is vitally important to your constituents and to our millions of members and supporters across the country who either are receiving Social Security or expect to do so in the future, to ensure that they receive the benefits they have earned. Cutting the Agency’s funding by six percent would significantly affect SSA’s ability to serve the public and undermine the Agency’s core mission – producing longer wait times for benefits and to reach SSA representatives, as well as reduced access to in-person services. The ability to interact face-to-face with SSA’s personnel is critical to those who attempt to access benefits as they are disproportionately elderly or disabled. According to SSA, it would be forced to close field offices and shorten hours of operation to the public, institute a hiring freeze (resulting in a reduction of over 5,000 employees), furlough staff for four weeks and lay off about 6,000 employees, and eliminate overtime pay. All of these actions would result in a significant increase in wait times for benefit determinations and a serious deterioration in services.
If the more likely outcome of cuts deeper than six percent were to ensue, the result would be catastrophic for the Agency and for the people who depend on Social Security programs to support their daily needs. According to SSA, for every $100 million in additional funding cuts, the Agency would be forced to lay off an additional 1,000 employees – the equivalent of closing over 40 field offices.
In addition to the impact on the Social Security Administration’s operations, cutting domestic discretionary funding would slash a wide variety of programs under the Older Americans Act that seniors rely on in every Congressional District in the country. These include nutrition programs such as Meals-on-Wheels, the Medicare State Health Insurance Program (SHIP), caregiver and other support services. Other programs important to seniors that would be cut include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, housing for the elderly, Foster Grandparents, the Senior Companions program and others. These programs provide valuable services that protect older Americans against poverty, hunger, isolation, poor health, neglect, abuse, unemployment and other challenges. They have been chronically underfunded, and with 10,000 baby boomers turning age 65 every day – and the number of seniors projected to double by 2050 – funding for these essential programs should be increased to keep up with growing demand – not slashed. Enactment of the Limit, Save, Grow Act would make deep cuts to these critical programs virtually inevitable.
As you know, raising the debt limit does not create additional federal spending, nor does it create new obligations for the federal government. It simply allows the government to meet previous obligations made over time by congressional majorities and presidents of both parties. It ensures that the sanctity of our fiscal word is never questioned or compromised; failure to do so would cause tremendous harm both to the United States economy and to the global financial system. That is why Congress has a long history of working in a bipartisan manner to raise the debt limit with no strings attached, as was done three times most recently under the Trump administration.
Despite assurances that many have given, Americans receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits may not be protected in case of a federal default. Beneficiaries have earned their benefits through a lifetime of hard work and they rely on their benefits. These payments are at risk of not being paid on time or in full for the first time in our nation’s history. This outcome is virtually inevitable because the Social Security program is not currently running a surplus. It is drawing down on the surpluses that have been intentionally built up over the past four decades to cover the anticipated retirement of the baby boom generation.
When Treasury can no longer borrow money because it has reached its authorized borrowing limit, it can no longer pay all of the nation’s bills on time and in full. Because the bonds in the Social Security Trust Funds “count” toward that borrowing limit, Social Security benefits are placed at risk. It is not clear whether the federal government has the legal authority or even the technical capacity to prioritize some bills over others, or which criterial the Treasury Department might use to make those choices if they were available. What we do know is that in each and every month after Treasury exhausts the ‘extraordinary measures’ they are utilizing to manage our debt in the absence of a new borrowing limit, Treasury will be required to pay over $90 billion in benefits to 65 million Social Security beneficiaries (including retirees, disabled workers, widows and widowers, children and spouses), and that these benefits are at serious risk of not being paid on time or in full for the first time in the program’s history.
In addition to the potential impact on Social Security beneficiaries, a default would jeopardize Medicare and Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals and coverage of prescription drugs, which are critical to the health security of millions of Americans.
This situation is unconscionable. Congress must put politics aside and raise the debt limit without the devastating cuts that are incorporated into the Limit, Save, Grow Act before incalculable damage is done to our nation’s economy and before 65 million Americans are forced to wonder whether they will received the benefits they have earned.
On behalf of your senior constituents and their families who may not be able to speak out for themselves, we strongly urge you to vote NO on the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 and to take up and pass ‘clean’ legislation to raise or suspend the debt limit without delay.
President and CEO