Senate Democrats

Reid Joins Senate Democrats To Call On McConnell To End Obstruction Of Cost-Of-Living Adjustment For Seniors And Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 16 Senate Democratic colleagues penned a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today calling for an end of Republican obstruction of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans.  Republicans, led by Senator McConnell, blocked passage of a COLA for these seniors and veterans earlier this year.  The Senators noted that since 1975 Social Security recipients have never gone two consecutive years without a COLA and that more than two-thirds of elderly Americans depend on Social Security as their primary source of income.  In requesting the Republican leader’s support, the Senators also cited that the estimated cost of emergency Social Security relief for seniors is less than 20% of the cost that Republicans want to spend on tax giveaways for multi-millionaires and CEOs who offshore American jobs.  A signed copy of this letter is attached to this release.

Key Excerpts of Letter to Senator McConnell:

“Since 1975, when the formula for determining Social Security COLAs was signed into law, Social Security recipients have never gone two consecutive years without a cost-of-living increase.”

“Given the fact that Social Security provides the majority of income for two-thirds of the elderly population in the United States, with approximately one-third of elderly individuals receiving nearly all of their income from Social Security, the lack of a COLA will make it especially difficult for our nation’s seniors to pay for the increased costs of healthcare, prescription drugs and other life and death needs.”

“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.”

“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.” 

“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.” 

Full Text of Letter to Senator McConnell:

October 19, 2010

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

United States Senate

361A Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC  20510-1702

Dear Mr. Minority Leader:

            As you know, the Social Security Administration announced last Friday that for the second straight year, more than 50 million Social Security recipients and disabled veterans will go without a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).  Since 1975, when the formula for determining Social Security COLAs was signed into law, Social Security recipients have never gone two consecutive years without a cost-of-living increase.

            Clearly, the outdated 1975 COLA formula does not accurately take into account the spending patterns of our nation’s seniors who often do not buy items like laptop computers and cellular phones, but spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care and prescription drugs.  While it is true that overall inflation is low, the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs are soaring.  For example, according to the AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the average price of more than 200 brand-name prescriptions most widely used by Medicare beneficiaries rose by 8.3 percent from March 2009 to March of 2010, higher than any increase in the prior eight years. 

            Given the fact that Social Security provides the majority of income for two-thirds of the elderly population in the United States, with approximately one-third of elderly individuals receiving nearly all of their income from Social Security, the lack of a COLA will make it especially difficult for our nation’s seniors to pay for the increased costs of healthcare, prescription drugs and other life and death needs.

            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.

            As our nation continues to struggle with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, far too many senior citizens are experiencing a decline in their living standards.  Many have seen their savings disappear, their pension funds in severe decline, the value of their homes dramatically diminished – all while the number of seniors declaring bankruptcy has gone up.  Seniors deserve a fair increase in benefits to keep up with these added costs and economic hardships.

            As you also know, 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 two 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.  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. 

            Over the long term, we look forward to working with you to establish a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly to determine an appropriate COLA.  But, for now, the least we can do is to provide seniors with a modest increase in their benefits so that they have the ability to pay for their added expenses.

            We look forward to working with you on this important issue.

                                                                                    Sincerely,

____________________                                            ____________________

Harry Reid                                                                   Bernard Sanders                      

Majority Leader                                                           United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Charles Schumer                                                          Patrick Leahy                          

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Debbie Stabenow                                                         Sherrod Brown                        

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Sheldon Whitehouse                                                     Byron Dorgan                          

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Kirsten Gillibrand                                                          Robert Menendez

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Blanche Lincoln                                                            Mary Landrieu

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Patty Murray                                                                Jack Reed

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                            ____________________

Frank Lautenberg                                                         Mark Begich

United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

____________________                                           

Jeff Merkley

United States Senator

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