Bipartisan House Bill To Create Social Security Reform Commission Coming

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Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and John Delaney (D-MD) plan to introduce a bill this Congress that would create a Social Security commission to propose changes to the program, Cole’s office confirmed to TPM on Monday.

The bill’s language and timing has not been finalized, but Cole, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Delaney co-sponsored similar legislation last year. The Hill first reported Cole’s intention to reintroduce the bill.

The legislation would land after House Republicans signaled that they want to force a debate over Social Security in the next two years by blocking the transfer of tax revenue between the retirement and disability funds unless the program’s overall solvency is improved. The disability fund is projected to be unable to pay full benefits starting in late 2016.

Last year’s bill would have created a 13-member commission to produce recommendations to keep Social Security solvent for 75 years. If tax revenue were transferred from the retirement to the disability fund to avoid the 2016 benefits cliff for the latter program, both funds are projected to start running out of money in 2033.

One member would have been appointed by the president, and each caucus leader in Congress would have picked three members, under last year’s bill. They would be tasked with issuing recommendations to Congress one year after the commission’s creation. Those recommendations, if approved by nine of the commission’s 13 members, would then be expedited to the House floor for a vote, with no amendments allowed.

Cole outlined to The Hill some of the proposals that he thought the commission would recommend.

“The commission would probably gradually raise retirement age, it would probably look at chained CPI, would probably look at means-testing and probably look at some sort of revenue, or reduce benefits for upper-income people,” he said. “Then you have to vote.”

Last year’s bill never got past the committee stage. But with the new House rule upping the stakes for Social Security in the new Congress, experts on both sides have told TPM that they thought a commission is one route that members might choose to take to satisfy the rule’s requirement.

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