Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, Dec. 19, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 19, 2014.

Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Federal Budget Agreement, Obama Signs it into Law

After a day of drama and partisan wrangling, the Senate voted 56-40 on Saturday to send a government funding bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. Obama then signed the bill into law on Tuesday. The $1.1 trillion legislation funds most of the government through September, but sets up a February showdown over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. More at http://tinyurl.com/n2jjfxo. Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill, while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership. Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). A tally of the Senate vote is at http://tinyurl.com/kn2okjq.

Part of the bill involves some multiemployer pension plans.  A Washington Post article is at http://tinyurl.com/kp4fvu9. Under certain conditions, the measure would allow the benefits of current retirees, who are not 80 or disabled, to be reduced in an effort to financially strengthen distressed multiemployer pension plans. Some unions supported the provision because it would strengthen distressed plans, while others did not due to the possible benefit reductions.

In the House, most Democrats had followed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) lead and voted against the package because of two riders she described as “egregious.” One of the policy riders repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to allow banks to directly engage in derivatives trading. The other loosens limits on the amount of money people can contribute to national political parties.

Paul Ryan’s Way of Cutting Medicare to Reemerge in New Congress

The next Republican budget will look a lot like those written by exiting House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the incoming House Budget Committee Chairman said last Friday. That would mean eliminating deficits in 10 years by calling again for massive cuts to the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who takes the reins of the U.S. House budget panel in January, told reporters he will “build on” Ryan’s proposals by devising ways to put more federal benefits programs under the control of states. Ryan will take over as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Price said a Republican-controlled Congress can now advance policies pioneered by Ryan, including his controversial Medicare plans. Those plans would cut Medicare by limiting beneficiaries to a set amount of money every year to buy private health care insurance. Known as “premium support,” the program would mark a dramatic shift from the current Medicare system, under which the federal government helps pay for all medical services that an individual uses.

“‘Premium support’ is vouchers and would gut Medicare and shift costs to seniors,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It is another way of saying, ‘Here’s a nickel, you’re on your own for the rest of your health care costs.’” More from Reuters at http://tinyurl.com/nuuhany.

Budget or another Topic on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor, Win a Pen!

If you want others to know about the federal budget, Medicare cuts, or another topic, take a moment and start writing. If your submission is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. Most recently, Henry Ball, Bob Dougherty, Tom Dwyer, Lucy Edwards, Judy Jobes, Hene Kelly, Dick Kern, Gene Lantz, Charles Minster, Al Mumm, Dianna Porter, Dorothy Siegel, Donald Singer, Kelly Sparks, Ron Thompson, William Stevens, Martin Williams, and Edward Wood contributed to the national dialogue. Please e-mail aracommunicati[email protected] if you have had a letter published. “Letters to the editor are a terrific way to get our message out,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Scotty Watts Retires as President of the Nevada Alliance, Warren Danford from UAW

Scotty Watts, who has been the president of the Nevada Alliance since its inception, has announced that he will step down from the position at the end of the year. Mr. Watts is perhaps best known for leading seniors to vote for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in Reid’s hard-fought victory over Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle in 2010. Watts has helped strengthen and protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by battling privatization efforts, by fighting back against other attempts to cut benefits, and by working to expand benefits for his fellow seniors. Tom Bird will serve as the Nevada Alliance President beginning on January 1, 2015.

“I want to thank Scotty for 18 years of service in the retiree movement – 13 with the Alliance – and for a job done superbly,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Scotty has been the face of the Nevada Alliance, and he has represented us with great results. He has always thrown his support to pro-retiree candidates, and Nevada is truly better off because of his efforts.”

“We will miss having Scotty as state president, but are thrilled that he now gets to enjoy his own retirement,” said Mr. Burks. “We know that he passes the torch with NARA in top form, and that is a testament to his excellent management and planning.”

Also, Warren Danford is retiring at the end of the year as Retiree Director of the UAW. “Warren has been a strong supporter for building the Alliance locally and nationally,” said Ms. Easterling. “He has been such a strong advocate of retiree programs, and we will miss working with him!”

“Story Warriors” Survey – Please Fill out if you Participated

Please fill out a brief survey if  you participated in the excellent “Story Warriors” media-skills training provided by Social Security Works and the Alliance for Retired Americans either at this year’s national convention or at a state convention. Link: http://tinyurl.com/oymjosg.

Save the Date: Alliance Legislative Conference will be July 7-10, 2015

Please save July 7-10, 2015 on your calendars. The 2015 Alliance Legislative Conference will take place in Washington, DC on those dates.

The Alliance wishes all of its members a safe and happy holiday season! The Friday Alert will resume on January 9, 2015.

Source: www.retiredamericans.org