CHN: Measure That Would Ease Social Security Eligibility Requirements Still Stalled

Congress Passes CR Through November 22Bowing to the pressures of the campaign season, Congress passed a five-week continuing resolution (CR) on October 16, allowing House and Senate members to leave Washington to hit the campaign trail. Among the stack of unfinished business left behind are 11 of the 13 appropriations bills, an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits expiring on December 28, prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients, and an extension to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which is set to expire on December 31. While the House and Senate technically remain in session, no business is scheduled to be acted upon until their return on November 12.

House Bill Could Have Dire Consequences for Housing Voucher Program
Despite the House Appropriations Committee’s assertion that its fiscal year 2003 appropriations bill for the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development (VA-HUD) Departments fully funds the Section 8 housing voucher program, advocates, housing agencies, and resident organizations argue that the committee bill would actually cut between 150,000 and 200,000 vouchers that would have been funded under the President’s budget request.

Community Health Centers Reauthorized by House and Senate
A bill (S 1533) to reauthorize and improve Community Health Centers is awaiting President Bush’s signature. The House passed S 1533 on Wednesday, October 16, with the Senate clearing the measure by voice vote the next day. Bush’s signature on the bill would complete one of the few actions taken by the 107th Congress to address the increasing number of Americans without health insurance by boosting the quality and services of community health centers in both rural and urban populations. The measure merges a House bill (HR 3450) passed October 1 with a version that the Senate passed April 16.

Measure That Would Ease Social Security Eligibility Requirements Still Stalled
Senate Republicans blocked attempts by Democrats earlier this month to bring a bill (HR 4069) to the floor that would boost Social Security benefits for widows and divorced spouces. The bill, introduced in the House by Republican Represenative E. Clay Shaw (FL), is supported by members of both parties, and unanimously passed the House on May 14. At issue were political considerations and the controversial Medicare prescription drug benefit plan, which could have been offered to the bill as an amendment. It remains unclear whether the Senate will take up the measure during the upcoming lame-duck session. Among other things, the bill would allow some disabled and elderly widows and divorcees to access the Social Security benefits of their deceased spouses before reaching age 60. Under current law, widows who are at least 50 years old, and who become disabled after the death of their spouse, must wait seven years before collecting Social Security benefits.

Social Security