October 19, 2010

Senator Gillibrand Challenges McConnell On Social Security

Washington, DC – With more than 50 million retirees and disabled Americans facing a second straight year with no increase in Social Security benefits, U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand today joined with five of her colleagues asking the Senate Republican leader to support a $250 emergency payment.

“We hope that you will agree with us that it is far more important to provide $250 in emergency relief to senior citizens and disabled veterans than it is to provide an average tax break of over $100,000 a year to taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year,” Senator Gillibrand and others said in the letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday said he intends to ask the Senate to pass a cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients when the Senate reconvenes in November.  President Obama also has called for a $250 payment to seniors and people with disabilities.

Unless Congress acts, there will be no cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and the disabled for only the second time since 1975 when a law took effect linking benefits to inflation. The outdated formula does not accurately take into account the budgets of senior citizens who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care and prescription drugs.

In addition to Gillibrand, others signing the letter include Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) .

“Congress will soon be debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts and whether or not we should be providing $700 billion in tax breaks over the next ten years to the top 2 percent of income earners.  We should note that the estimated $13 billion cost of emergency relief this year to our seniors is only a fraction of the $70 billion in average annual tax breaks over the next decade that would go to the wealthiest two percent of Americans if all of these tax breaks are extended,” the letter said.

“Therefore, we are writing to ask that you join us in supporting legislation as soon as the Senate comes back into session to provide $250 in emergency relief to our nation's most vulnerable senior citizens and disabled veterans to help them pay for their increased cost of living,” the senators wrote to McConnell.

The Senate last March 3 blocked a Sanders amendment to provide a $250 payment to Social Security recipients and others.  Only one Republican senator voted for Sanders’ amendment.   

To read the entire letter, click here.