Sanders, Warren introduce bill to hike Social Security checks

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPicking longtime fixer as chief of staff proves Clinton hasn't changed The Trail 2016: Wikissues Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenEmbattled GOP senator fires back at Warren Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress President Obama’s antitrust enforcement MORE (D-Mass.) are teaming up on a bill that would hand Social Security recipients a $580 check and pay for it by trimming tax perks for corporate executives.

The progressive duo unveiled new legislation Thursday that would cut checks for millions of Americans that rely on Social Security benefits, weeks after the Obama administration announced there would be no cost-of-living increase to payments in 2016.

“At a time when senior poverty is going up and more than two-thirds of the elderly population rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, our job must be to expand, not cut, Social Security," said Sanders, who is running for president.

"At the very least, we must do everything we can to make sure that every senior citizen and disabled veteran in this country receives a fair cost-of-living adjustment to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and health care."

Sanders has made expanding Social Security one of the signature issues of his presidential campaign, and has repeatedly called for taxing the wealthy to pay for an expansion of benefits.

Under his bill with Warren, Americans who receive benefits from Social Security, veterans benefits or equivalent state or local programs would receive a one-time payment. The pair noted that the check would equal 3.9 percent of existing benefits, the same percentage that CEO pay rose in 2014.

The senators want to pay for the supplemental payment by killing a tax code provision that allows companies to deduct a portion of executive salary, so long as it is “performance based.”

Under current tax law, companies can only deduct the first $1 million in executive compensation, but performance-based pay, like stock options, is exempted from that restriction. Noting that CEO pay is still on the rise while Social Security benefits are flat, Warren said it’s clear top executives could chip in.

“While Congress sits on its hands and pretends that there's nothing we can do, taxpayers will keep right on subsidizing billions of dollars' worth of bonuses for highly paid CEOs," she said. "Giving seniors a little help with their Social Security and stitching up corporate tax write-offs isn't just about economics; it's about our values.”

Democrats have targeted that part of the tax code in the past to raise revenue, and Warren’s office says repealing that language would raise more than enough to cover cutting those supplemental checks.

Repealing the tax break was also floated by former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), when he drafted his own tax reform proposal in 2014.

Under the Warren-Sanders bill, the rest of the revenue raised by killing that corporate tax break would go toward shoring up the Social Security and Disability trust funds, which got a much-needed cash infusion as part of the most recent budget agreement.