We are in a moment to question Senate Republicans’ priorities. Not only are they content to allow millions of people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic to lose key unemployment benefits starting this week, but the issues they’re highlighting as their priorities—like protecting employers who may force their workers back on the job without adequate health and safety protections from lawsuits—show beyond a doubt that they’re not focused on the well-being of everyday Americans.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently announced that he will include the TRUST Act, introduced by Senator Mitt Romney, in the next Republican COVID-19 relief package.
The TRUST Act would establish separate 12-member congressional commissions to “prevent insolvency and improve” federal trust programs like Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicare. These commissions would be directed to propose legislative solutions. The commission could approve any proposal with a simple majority vote, and these proposals would then receive fast-track consideration in both chambers of Congress.
To be clear: this is a set-up designed to facilitate cuts to Social Security, SSDI, and Medicare – which provide benefits that millions of Americans rely on. Entrusting commissions such as these with funding decisions would allow for closed-door, fast-track decision-making with little transparency and insufficient opportunity for amendments, filibusters, and other important procedural protections. As a result, the TRUST Act would be laying the groundwork to make more drastic spending cuts without the public scrutiny and debate that slashing such critically important programs would warrant.
It is hard to overstate the importance of Social Security and SSDI to women: these programs keep millions of older women, women with disabilities, and children above the poverty line every year. And we know that during economic downturns, people rely even more on benefits like Social Security. If enacted, the TRUST Act would threaten the economic security of millions of Americans, especially women, families, and communities of color, when they are already teetering on the brink.
Instead of trying to fast-track benefit cuts during a pandemic, Senate Republicans should get on board with increasing Social Security and other key benefits that help people meet their basic needs. And they should move forward with common-sense, straightforward actions that we know will increase the solvency of the Social Security trust fund—like requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay into Social Security at the same rate as the rest of us.