Merkley Urges Republicans to Support Emergency Relief for Seniors and Disabled Veterans

Washington, D.C. – With seniors and other Social Security recipients facing a second straight year without a cost of living adjustment, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined 16 of his colleagues this week in calling on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to support $250 emergency relief payments for more than 50 million seniors and disabled Americans.  The freeze in Social Security benefits comes at a time when many retirees are still hurting from pension losses that occurred as a result of the financial crisis.
“We hope that you will agree with us that it is far more important to provide $250 in emergency relief to senior citizens and disabled veterans than it is to provide an average tax break of over $100,000 a year to taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year,” the senators wrote in the letter to McConnell.

Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated his intention to ask the Senate for the one-time Social Security payments when Congress reconvenes in November.  President Obama has also made calls for an emergency $250 payment to seniors and people with disabilities.  Senate Republicans have regularly filibustered even routine legislation during the last two years, however, making McConnell’s cooperation necessary even if a majority of Senators support the policy.

Without action from Congress, retirees and the disabled will fail to receive a cost-of-living adjustment for the second year in a row. The outdated formula does not accurately take into account the budgets of senior citizens who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care and prescription drugs.

“Congress will soon be debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts and whether or not we should be providing $700 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years to the top 2 percent of income earners.  We should note that the estimated $13 billion cost of emergency relief this year to our seniors is only a fraction of the $70 billion in average annual tax breaks over the next decade that would go to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans if all of these tax breaks are extended,” the letter said.

“Therefore, we are writing to ask that you join us in supporting legislation as soon as the Senate comes back into session to provide $250 in emergency relief to our nation’s most vulnerable senior citizens and disabled veterans to help them pay for their increased cost of living,” the senators wrote to McConnell.

In addition to senators Merkley and Reid, others signing the letter include Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

The entire letter is available in PDF form here: Security Letter October 2010.pdf