With an expected House vote tomorrow on controversial trade legislation supported by the President and the Senate, House leadership of bothparties are scrambling to find a way to provide political cover for the $950 million in Medicare cuts being used to fund part of the trade bill.  Stealing funds from Medicare to pay for Congress’ pet projects has become increasingly common.  This Trade package is just the latest example.   

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Task Force on Seniors have led the charge against this proposal:

10,000 people a day turn 65.  We should be investing and expanding Medicare not stealing from it.  People have paid into this program and expect it to be there…not to use that to fund anytime we need money to pay for another program…Medicare is not the ATM for everything Congress wants to pay for.  Cutting this social insurance program isn’t the direction we should be going in. Medicare should not be the pay-for for trade deal. The best way to help workers is to stop trade deals that take their jobs…not cut Medicare to fund fixes.” Rep. Jan Shakowsky (D-IL)

“There’s going to be untold riches earned if TPP is enacted into law.  There’s no doubt about that. Great profits will be derived for large international corporations…it seems only logical that the multinationals should fund the costs of the Trade Adjustment Assistance. I can not abide this.  We’ll fight it with everything we have.”  Keith Ellison (D-MN)

That pressure has worked as more and more Members now realize what is included in this trade vote and this week voiced their opposition to using Medicare as an ATM to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation. 

However, rather than go back to the drawing board, House leaders have now crafted a political sleight of hand designed to pass TAA while providing Members of Congress political coverage for cutting Medicare.  This is a segment of NCPSSM’s letter to Congress today and comments from NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman: 

“Although Representative Paul Ryan’s amendment to H.R. 1295, the “Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015,” would remove the Medicare sequester from H.R. 1314, there is no guarantee that the Senate will approve this amendment. In addition, the Ryan amendment is flawed because it does not remove the Medicare dialysis provision from H.R. 1314.

We believe that this scheme amounts to a shell game which will force you and your colleagues to be on record with a vote to cut a program that is supported overwhelmingly by Americans of all political affiliations and age groups. What’s more, it sets a dangerous precedent of treating Medicare as a piggybank to pay for unrelated programs. Savings from changes in Medicare policy should be used to improve Medicare – not for other purposes.”

“For millions of seniors and their families a vote to cut Medicare is a vote to cut Medicare.  Period.  There is no political sleight of hand that will provide Members of Congress protection on election day for a vote which raids Medicare to pay for the trade bill.

Cutting Medicare to pay for everything else under the sun has become a habit that Congress needs to break.  This trade vote is the perfect time to do it. 

Medicare isn’t Washington’s ATM.  The American people understand this.  Members of Congress who don’t will undoubtedly be reminded very clearly by their political opponents and voters come Election Day.”…Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO