“America’s strong and growing economy – along with President Trump’s renewed call for bipartisanship at last night’s State of the Union – pave the perfect path for us to work together to help families save more and earlier throughout their lives,” began Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee at a Ways and Means Committee hearing this Wednesday.
The Texas Republican, at a Committee hearing entitled “Improving Retirement Security For America’s Workers,” called on Congress to work together to help all Americans plan for retirement.
To do so, Rep. Brady emphasized bipartisan reforms that already passed the House last fall, encouraging lawmakers to build on this Committee-led legislation.
“These are smart solutions that can make an enormous impact for millions of workers,” stressed Rep. Brady.
The House-passed proposals, among other things, expanded 529 savings accounts to help cover education expenses, created new savings accounts for when families welcome a new child into their family, allowed small businesses to pool together to offer retirement plans, and eliminated the age limits for IRA contributions.
“The ability for small businesses to band together to drive down costs I think is fantastic,” noted Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA).
Republicans emphasized that expanding access to 401(k)s and IRAs are beneficial to workers. As Diane Oakley of the National Institute on Retirement Security said, “in your own individual retirement account, Congress can’t steal it.”
In addition to making commonsense reforms to our retirement and savings systems, Rep. Brady and Committee Republicans called for bipartisan fixes to Social Security.
Andrew Biggs, a pensions and Social Security expert at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed reforms needed to have both parties on board, saying throughout the program’s nearly 100-year history, “bipartisan reforms are the ones that actually get passed.”
Top Republican for the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), said Republicans stand ready to tackle the program’s problems.
“I’m a proud Republican,” Rep. Reed said, adding “I share a commitment to make sure Social Security is solvent.”
In order to strengthen Social Security for future generations, Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), lead Republican on the Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, said that current Democrat-only legislation being proposed, that increases taxes on all workers, including low- and middle-income families, is dead on arrival for Republicans in its current form.
The tax writer said “under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a single mother with two children has zero federal tax liability until she earns more than $53,000 a year.” Rep. Smith said that current Democrat proposal “would increase the taxes of that single mother.”
To fix Social Security, Rep. Smith emphasized, “implementing a $1,200 tax increase on single moms … is not the way to do that.”
One area of common concern in the Social Security program is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) said the WEP doesn’t treat public servants, including teachers, police officers, and firefighters, fairly.
There was bipartisan agreement with Rep. Marchant among lawmakers and the witnesses. Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said he and Rep. Brady “remain keenly interested in that issue” of WEP.
However, the biggest challenge facing Social Security is that the program is not solvent. Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) did not receive a single affirmative answer when he asked the witnesses about the program’s ability to pay its obligations.
Republicans made clear that any reforms to Social Security, as Rep. Brady said, “need to protect our most vulnerable, target help to those who need it most, must reward work, improve overall retirement security, and plan for the workers and families of tomorrow.”
Rep. Brady concluded, “It’s time to work together to save Social Security for every generation once and for all.”