Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

Files Bipartisan WEP/GPO Repeal Bill

MARCH 2012 VOICE: For the thousands of retirees impacted by the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or Government Pension Offset (GPO), calendar year 2011 ended in disappointment after the issues were, once again, not addressed by Congress.

Further flaming members frustrations is the fact that a repeal bill had not been filed in the U.S. Senate, after Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) opted not to refile her repeal proposal. Reportedly, Feinstein’s hope was that the WEP/GPO issue would be included within a larger proposal to overhaul Social Security, which of course has failed to materialize.

We are pleased to report that Massachusetts’ senior Senator John Kerry has stepped in and filled the Social Security void in the Senate by filing his own WEP/GPO repeal bill, S2010. The bill has been cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who has become one of the leading advocates for the repeal of both laws.

Association officials have called on Senator Scott Brown to also cosponsor the bill, which would bring another influential Republican voice to the WEP/GPO repeal debate.

“By filing S2010, Senator Kerry has put the spotlight back on the issue of WEP/GPO. And with Senator Collins’ support, we can firmly say this is not a partisan issue for either party,” says Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “I know the Maine retired teachers have done an excellent job of bringing attention to these issues, just as we’ve done here in Massachusetts.

“The challenge we have is breaking through the gridlock in Washington and getting Congress to finally bring these issues to a vote. Right now, national attention is just not there. The focus is on jobs, the economy and reducing debt.”

House Is Key

Under Congressional Rules, any Social Security legislation must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

Association officials had hoped that Speaker Boehner, representing the non-Social Security state of Ohio, would help advance WEP/GPO repeal. Boehner’s House, like that of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has not viewed WEP/GPO or the issue of Social Security reform as a priority.

Complicating any desire by Boehner to help his home state by passing WEP/GPO reform legislation are the views held by many House Republicans that Social Security should be privatized or made “optional” for all workers. Two leading members of the House Leadership, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are both proponents of dismantling the traditional Social Security system through privatization.

“We’re equally critical of both parties for not having made WEP/GPO or Social Security reform a priority in the past. Nancy Pelosi allowed national health care reform to monopolize nearly the first two years of President Obama’s term,” says Association President Ralph White. “Now we have a small group of very conservative leaders in the House, who want to see it privatized.

“These ideas are the exact opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish. Our members or their spouses paid into Social Security, while in the private sector, and deserve to collect what they earned.”

It should be noted that, as in the Senate, there are ranking House Republicans who support WEP/GPO repeal. In fact, California Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, who chairs the powerful House Armed Services Committee, is the lead sponsor of HR1332. Like Kerry’s S2010, HR1332 would repeal both the WEP and GPO.

Among the 145 cosponsors of HR1332 are 9 of the 10 Massachusetts Congressmen, along with several leading Republican members including Presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, Florida’s Bill Young, Indiana’s Dan Burton and New York’s Peter King.