Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, the Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science Committee and Co-Chair of the House Oceans Caucus, issued this statement after the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt.
Older Americans Act
As the population of older adults continues to grow, programs that keep seniors healthy, active, and engaged in their communities are even more important.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) is a cornerstone of our nation’s commitment to seniors. In 2016, I helped pass a bipartisan reauthorization of the OAA. This law will support programs like Meals on Wheels for the next three years, and it will also provide additional resources. The OAA strengthens protections against elder abuse, improves nutrition services, and updates the Family Caregiver Support Program. Increasing investments in programs that support older adults helps them stay in their homes where they can remain connected to their communities and avoid costlier long-term care.
For the millions of Americans without retirement savings, the future can be uncertain. In the 21st century economy, more workers switch jobs frequently and they are less likely to be covered by a traditional employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.
Oregon is a national leader in helping workers save for retirement and transfer their retirement savings from job to job. I’ve introduced the American Savings Account Act to provide American workers with a new tool to help them save for a strong and secure retirement. Modeled after similar programs in Oregon and California, the legislation would provide every American worker with access to a personal, pre-tax retirement savings plan. Senator Merkley introduced the Senate version of the Act, which is designed to help working families around the country be more secure in their retirement by giving them the tools necessary to invest in their future regardless of where they work.
I also support the Department of Labor’s Conflict of Interest regulation, which will safeguard workers’ retirement savings by making sure that financial advisors are acting in the best interest of their clients. Retirement products are complex. Americans should be able to rely on the advice of professionals and be confident that those advisors are doing what’s best for the retiree, not what’s best for the advisor. I support the Department of Labor’s thoughtful approach to making sure the regulations are workable and that they will protect my constituents’ hard-earned retirement savings.
Social Security and Medicare
Social Security and Medicare are essential programs that provide financial security and allow older adults to age with dignity. Economic challenges are not an excuse to dismantle, privatize, or compromise these critical programs. The Social Security trust fund is solvent, and we must keep our promise to seniors by making sure it remains that way. There are sensible reforms that can be made to strengthen these programs while protecting and preserving Medicare and Social Security for current and future recipients. For example, I support raising the limit on income that is taxed for Social Security. I have cosponsored the Social Security 2100 Act, which would require our country’s highest wage earners—those making more than $400,000 per year—to contribute more to the program.
Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to Social Security payments are essential for making sure that beneficiaries can live their lives without the risk of falling into poverty. In the past few years, however, COLAs have been relatively small. In 2016, there was no increase in payments. I understand how difficult it can be to pay for prescription medications, housing, and other expenses when Social Security payments don’t keep pace with rising costs. I support tying future COLAs to the Consumer Price Index for the elderly (CPI-E), an index that more accurately measures the expenses of older adults.
Rising prescription drug costs are a burden for many Americans, particularly seniors. We have made some progress with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which made prescription drug coverage more affordable for many by reducing the gap in Medicare Part D known as the “donut hole.” However, more must be done to keep up with increasing costs. I have cosponsored the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and provide better prescription drug coverage. I will continue working to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable.