Washington Eyes Social Security Changes

SEPTEMBER 2005 - WEP/GPO Strategy Unfolds - As top Republican congressional leaders back away from the issue of diverting Social Security funds into so-called "private accounts", optimism is building that a reform bill may be acted on later this year.

Members, while monitoring the overall issue of Social Security reform, are most interested in the progress of legislation that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). Recently, the two issues have been held hostage by the broader issue of reform.

"The key to the WEP and GPO issue being resolved is getting Congress to act on a larger reform bill. Even though mandatory coverage remains a dangerous threat, we are doing everything we can to push for WEP and GPO repeal," says Association President Ralph White.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle privately acknowledge that a breakthrough could happen later this year. Republicans appear to be offering an olive branch of sorts to Democrats, by dropping plans to privatize the program.

California Congressman Bill Thomas, the powerful Republican Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, together with Social Security Subcommittee Chairman James McCrery (R-LA), filed a separate bill that would invest the annual Social Security surplus in investment accounts, instead of it being converted to government bonds.

This bill is seen as a step towards a reform bill passing. Both the House and Senate are said to be working behind the scenes on a broader reform bill that may emerge later this year.

Hearing Testimony Submitted

Beginning in June, the House Subcommittee on Social Security began a series of public hearings on reforming the various aspects of Social Security. Our Association was asked to submit testimony for the June 9, 2005 hearing, which focused on the issues of WEP and GPO.
Editor's Note: The text of our testimony can be found on our website.

As members know, the Association is backing H.R. 147, filed by Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), which would fully repeal both the WEP and GPO. The bill, which was included in the hearing on June 9, now has 275 cosponsors in the House, including all ten Mass Congressmen.

Given the current circumstances in Washington, Congressional observers do not anticipate H.R. 147 moving on its own. Again, it is expected that any language to repeal or otherwise reform the WEP/GPO laws will be included as part of the larger reform package and not as a standalone bill.

"We have had conversations with our congressional delegation, as well as with our coalition partners from around the country. All are committed to including the WEP and GPO repeal in the larger bill, if and when it moves," explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. "The Republicans are going to be looking for ways to compromise on a reform bill. We feel the WEP and GPO are a great place to start."