Top progressives push colleagues to expand Social Security benefits

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Top progressives in the House are trying to garner support for legislation expanding Social Security benefits, pitching the bill introduced last year to colleagues as a chance to “deliver a long-awaited promise to the American people.”

In a letter to Democratic colleagues, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) pushed legislators to get behind H.R. 5723, or Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, calling the package “sound policy and a potent message for voters” ahead of the midterm elections.

“Since the advent of Social Security, Democrats have worked steadfastly for nearly a century to build on that landmark achievement and create a more just society, guaranteeing a life of dignity to our seniors,” the representatives wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill. “Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust upholds this tradition.”

“It increases benefits across the board at a time when seniors are particularly struggling with the health impacts of COVID and with higher inflation on a fixed-income budget,” they added.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), was introduced last October but did not advance through the Ways and Means Committee and relevant subcommittees.

About 76 percent of Americans support expanding social security benefits, according to a Data for Progress poll conducted in June.

It’s unclear if Congress will move on the proposal. Both Democrats and Republicans agree the Social Security system must be revamped before 2035 — when the retiree population is expected to double — but there is little consensus on how to move forward.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed a separate Senate package that would increase benefits by $200 per month.

Robert Roach Jr., the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, testified last month in support of Sanders’s legislation, but expressed support for the House package, explaining “older Americans today are hurting.”

“I have seen examples for myself firsthand. I have observed on many occasions seniors at the supermarket checkout who had to put food back because the grocery bill was more than they had,” Roach said in a June 22 statement. “Seniors are having to make decisions between food and medicine on a daily basis.”

The Social Security Administration has not seen a major expansion or overhaul since the Obama administration, which boosted the department’s budget by $1 billion.

The bill championed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus would expand retirement, disability and dependent benefits while removing penalties against households with dual incomes. It would also expand benefits to students and end a five-month waiting period for those signing up for disability benefits.

According to Jayapal, the increased benefits would be paid for by a payroll tax on Americans who make above $400,000 a year.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Congressional Progressive Caucus inflation John Larson Pramila Jayapal Pramila Jayapal social security

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