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house Bill H.R. 1401

Should a Bipartisan Commission Recommend Changes to Social Security?

Argument in favor

Social Security is unsustainable in its current form. A change is badly needed, but because this is such a contentious issue, policy proposals have yet to be enacted despite a number of ideas being put forward. A bipartisan commission tasked with making recommendations for an up-or-down vote by Congress could finally spur action on this issue.

Kathi13's Opinion
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04/16/2019
Maybe, in addition to creating solvency, the government could pay back the money it borrowed.
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Marcia's Opinion
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04/17/2019
Is this possible? I see it as the best solution to this “problem”, although I feel that Congress has misused these funds in the past. I also mistrust this administration to manipulate the balance of participation. I hope for fair consideration. This is peoples lives.
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Marc's Opinion
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04/17/2019
Although, rather than bipartisan, how about independent
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Argument opposed

There are already numerous proposals to make Social Security sustainable in the public sphere. A commission to study Social Security isn’t needed to help policymakers understand how to ensure Social Security’s solvency for future generations — Congress merely needs to weigh the options on the table and pass appropriate legislation.

Kodiwodi's Opinion
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04/17/2019
Absolutely not. I don’t want a politician anywhere near the Social Security Trust Fund. While changes may be needed, it may be much wiser to develop suggestions from a committee made up of people from retirement organizations such as AARP who represent some of the finest minds in the country. No panel of politicians or political appointees would approach the problem in as sincere a manner as those affected by it.
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Margaret's Opinion
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04/17/2019
Congress needs to pay back the money it’s used from this fund for other government functions and then leave it alone.
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Gfeiste's Opinion
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04/16/2019
As long as one party has an extra person on the commission it is a no go as far as I am concerned. I like the idea of a bi-partisan commission very much. But if it is weighted in favor of a political party (either one) I am against it. I would prefer a non-partisan committee with actuarial representation, socio-economic representation, snd a recognition of what expenses are for the elderly vs. working age population so that COLA is adjusted appropriately.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Ways and Means
    IntroducedFebruary 27th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1401?

This bill — the Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act of 2019 — would establish a 13-member bipartisan, bicameral commission tasked with recommending reforms to ensure Social Security is solvent for at least 75 years. The commission would have a year to develop its recommendations for keeping Social Security solvent, and to submit its report to Congress. After the commission makes its recommendations, Congress would be required to vote up or down on its recommendations within 60 legislative days.

The commission’s 13 members would consist of:

  • One presidential appointee, who would serve as the chair of the Commission;
  • Three members appointed by the House Speaker;
  • Three members appointed by the House minority leader;
  • Three members appointed by the Senate majority leader; and
  • Three members appointed by the Senate minority leader.

A co-chair of the Commission would be designated by the House Speaker at the time of appointment. Of the Commission’s congressional appointees, at least one appointed by each political party would have to be someone who’s not an elected official or an officer or employee of the federal government or a state. Each member of the Commission would be appointed for the lifetime of the Commission, and vacancies would be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made.

Impact

American workers who pay Social Security taxes; Social Security beneficiaries; the Social Security Administration; and the House and the Senate.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1401

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced this bill to establish a bipartisan commission to make recommendations for ensuring Social Security’s solvency in the future. In a blog post on his congressional website, Rep. Cole wrote:

“[T]o make real progress toward tackling our burden of debt, tough decisions and careful solutions are required. But the solutions must include reforms to save and sustain the mandatory programs serving many vulnerable Americans. I believe a good place to start would be passage of legislation I introduced again this Congress, the Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act. The bill calls for a bipartisan and bicameral commission tasked with recommending reforms to ensure Social Security is solvent for at least 75 years. Congress would then be required to vote up or down on the commission’s recommendations within 60 legislative days. The legislation is modeled after the successful approach taken by former House Speaker Tip O’Neill and supported by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, when Social Security was also on the brink of bankruptcy. At that time, bipartisan legislation was approved to stabilize and improve the fiscal foundation of Social Security. And the resulting legislation not only received widespread public support, it extended the life of Social Security. If history is any indication, I believe what worked before to save Social Security can work again—if both parties commit to pursuing reforms in a thoughtful, fair and bipartisan manner.”

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), Third Way, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation expressed their support for this bill in 2014. In a letter to bill sponsors Reps. John Delaney (D-MD) and Tom Cole (R-OK), the coalition wrote:

“There is widespread recognition across the political spectrum that Social Security, on its current path, will be unable to pay full benefits to disabled beneficiaries in 2016 and to reitred and survivors of American workers in 2035 (2033 under a combined Trust Funds scenario. For many American families, these would be catastrophic events. Moreover, allowing such possibilites to loom undermines a core purpose of Social Security: providing certainty and stability. That is why we are so pleased that you have introduced The Social Security Commission Act of 2014 (HR 4786). We understand that some may be way of another commission. But Social Security’s last major fix, in 1983, was made possible by a commission, chaired by Alan Greenspan. Your legislation offers a transparent, inclusive, and politically viable path to a balance solvency plan and a filibuster-proof up-or-down vote. Further, enacting a commission to fix Social Security would demonstrate the Congress is serious about protecting the middle class and making progress on our country’s most pressing issues.”

When this bill was introduced in the 115th Congress as the Social Security Commission Act of 2017, CREDO Action and Social Security Works opposed it as a “sneak attack on Social Security”:

“A handful of conservative Democrats in Congress are teaming up with right-wing Republicans to sneak through legislation that would slash our Social Security benefits… The Social Security Commission Act of 2017 would establish a 13-member commission, made up of seven Republicans and six Democrats, tasked with developing a proposal for ensuring Social Security’s solvency for the next 75 years. Congressional leaders would then fast-track the commission’s proposal without amendments, with limited debate and with only a simple majority’s approval in the Senate. The purpose of this sham commission is to justify and jam through cuts to Social Security benefits.”

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare opposes this bill’s approach:

“[We believe] that the approach proposed in [this bill] would circumvent a deliberative and public process, limiting the participation of Social Security stakeholders and advocates in the debate. 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. It is important to recall that Social Security does not face a crisis in funding. Its trust funds hold over $2.85 trillion in assets that, along with its dedicated stream of payroll tax revenue, are sufficient to ensure payment of all benefits due for more than 17 years.  The real crisis, unmentioned in [this bill], is the growing number of working and middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security 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 designed to muzzle debate against unpopular benefit cuts.”

This bill doesn’t have any cosponsors in the 116th Congress. Last Congress, then-Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), who’s now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, introduced this bill as the Social Security Commission Act of 2017 with the support of five bipartisan cosponsors, including four Republicans and one Democrat, and it didn’t receive a committee vote. Rep. Delaney (D-MD) first introduced this bill in May 2014 (in the 113th Congress). At that time, the bill’s title was the Social Security Commission Act of 2014, and it had seven bipartisan cosponsors, including four Democrats and three Republicans and didn’t receive a committee vote.


Of NoteThe 1981 National Commission on Social Security, referenced by supporters of this bill as the model for its proposed commission, was created by Congress in December 1977. It was charged with undertaking a “fundamental, long-term, comprehensive consideration for change in the entire Social Security system." The commission had nine bipartisan members and issued its final report in March 1981. In that report, the commission concluded that the Social Security system was “sound in principle” and “the best structure of income support for the United States."

Today, Social Security is widely regarded as unsustainable, as future obligations are projected to exceed future revenue. The Concord Coalition says:

“[A]s currently structured, Social Security is on an unsustainable path and already pays out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. The program faces large, automatic cuts in less than two decades if policymakers do nothing. That would mean lower income for retirees and a major disruption to the economy."

Multiple proposals to return Social Security to sustainability have been raised over the years. They include: raising taxes, cutting benefits, encouraging higher personal saving rates, changing the eligibility rules, and raising the retirement age. However, due to the contentiousness of the debate over Social Security changes, none of these proposals have been enacted.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / GetUpStudio)

AKA

Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act of 2019

Official Title

To establish the Commission on Long-Term Social Security Solvency, and for other purposes.

    Maybe, in addition to creating solvency, the government could pay back the money it borrowed.
    Like (162)
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    Absolutely not. I don’t want a politician anywhere near the Social Security Trust Fund. While changes may be needed, it may be much wiser to develop suggestions from a committee made up of people from retirement organizations such as AARP who represent some of the finest minds in the country. No panel of politicians or political appointees would approach the problem in as sincere a manner as those affected by it.
    Like (153)
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    Congress needs to pay back the money it’s used from this fund for other government functions and then leave it alone.
    Like (98)
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    How about a citizens group/commission instead. They’re more likely to get something done, more likely to come up with a viable solution, and more likely to keep politics out of the mix. Keep the politicians away from the commission except for an advance agreement to introduce in both the House and the Senate, with bipartisan support, whatever the Citizens Commission develops.
    Like (54)
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    As long as one party has an extra person on the commission it is a no go as far as I am concerned. I like the idea of a bi-partisan commission very much. But if it is weighted in favor of a political party (either one) I am against it. I would prefer a non-partisan committee with actuarial representation, socio-economic representation, snd a recognition of what expenses are for the elderly vs. working age population so that COLA is adjusted appropriately.
    Like (44)
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    Here what would fix social security.... PUT THE DAMN MONEY BACK THAT WAS STOLEN FROM IT AND IT WILL BE IN GREAT SHAPE !
    Like (38)
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    Is this possible? I see it as the best solution to this “problem”, although I feel that Congress has misused these funds in the past. I also mistrust this administration to manipulate the balance of participation. I hope for fair consideration. This is peoples lives.
    Like (34)
    Follow
    Share
    Leave our social security alone!! You have, already, allowed 50 years of progress to be undone. Stop hurting the public you are supposed to be SERVING!
    Like (32)
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    Put the money back!
    Like (30)
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    Fund it and leave it alone.
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    Bi-partisan commission? The only things bi-partisan in DC are reckless spending and cynicism. Hands off SS. And pay back the 2.7 trillion that was stolen from We the People.
    Like (28)
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    How about our representatives start paying SS. They have no skin in this and should have smarter people with skills work on this, the only thing that I’m confident in is our representatives fucking it up worse then it is.
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    Although, rather than bipartisan, how about independent
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    Pay all the money it stole
    Like (20)
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    Do not allow politicians to sit on the committee. Entire program and any changes must also be reviewed and approved by ethics panel. No Conservative deal-making. No special interests. (04-17 added thought): I’d like to see several leading universities and scholars working on a solution to this issue and not IVY league schools. Maybe there are several options and it is put out to The People to vote in an option. No option for Presidential Veto and Congress is to ensure the selected option is implemented properly and safeguarded.
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    No.
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    DO NOT SCREW AROUND with Social Security!!!!!! And stop “Borrowing” money from Social Security. In fact, if you really want to do something good for your country, pass a law prohibiting Congress from touching Social Security!
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    Social security isn’t an entitlement, it’s something people have paid into for years. Instead of making cuts to it the government should pay the money back and it would be less of an issue.
    Like (18)
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    A commission, maybe, but no politicians, and certainly not a majority of either party. Funding SS is too important to be put in the hands of this Congress.
    Like (17)
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    Keep your hands off Social Security. Write legislation to remove the ‘Cap’ and SOcial Security will be just fine!
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