For the first time, a bill to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset has advanced out of committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The WEP and GPO are the Social Security offsets that unfairly penalize most teachers, as well as other public employees such as firefighters and law enforcement, in Texas and several other states. Click here for background on these federal provisions.
In a nutshell:
HR 82, a bill by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) to repeal both the GPO and the WEP, was reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee during a committee hearing Tuesday, Sept. 20. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that any bill addressing the GPO/WEP has advanced out of committee. TCTA contacted the Texas congressional delegation in August to ask for their support of this legislation.
The measure faces short timelines; if HR 82 (or any other current legislation) is not passed by the House and Senate by the end of the year, the bill will die and new legislation will have to be filed when the next congressional session begins in early 2023.
Although HR 82 was reported out of committee, it was reported without recommendation – a neutral stance that does not necessarily bode well for its future. More than half of House members have signed on in support of the bill, but despite bipartisan support there is significant concern that HR 82 does not include any provisions that would cover the costs of increasing Social Security benefits for millions of Americans. Those costs are estimated at nearly $150 billion over a 10-year period, and the Congressional Research Service calculates that it would hasten the point at which Social Security funds would be depleted. This may preclude discussion on the House floor, but if the bill is considered, it has enough support to pass in the U.S. House.
The U.S. Senate has always been the larger obstacle for any of the Social Security offset bills. Since less than half of the states have a large segment of affected employees, less than half of the senators have a strong interest in their passage, and it will be difficult to get the 60 votes needed.
HR 5723, by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), was briefly suggested by its author as an amendment to HR 82. The bill, titled “Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust,” represents a more comprehensive approach to Social Security reform, including repeal of the WEP and GPO. The bill is viewed more favorably by many as it includes provisions to cover the costs of increasing benefits to millions of Americans, but there may not be an appetite right now to tackle broader reform.
The bill would not only repeal the WEP and GPO, but would boost benefits for all Social Security participants, in addition to revising the cost-of-living adjustment formula. The benefit increases would be paid for by increasing the salary cap on which Social Security contributions are made from the current $147,000 to $400,000. The bill ultimately was not amended onto HR 82, and no action was taken on it.
HR 2337 by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), was also discussed, but no action was taken. This bill, proposed by Texas Congressman Kevin Brady in previous years, does not repeal either offset, and does not address the GPO at all. It revises the calculation of the WEP to be more fair, to the benefit of most employees who currently are or will be affected by this law. TCTA has supported this legislation, but we have always made clear that full repeal of both offsets is preferable. If repeal is unlikely to pass, this more moderate proposal would still benefit a great number of teachers and other public employees.
HR 2337 also costs the Social Security system around $30 billion over a 10-year period. However, unlike the estimated impact of HR 82, this more moderate proposal was projected by the Congressional Research Service not to have a significant effect on the Social Security trust funds’ actuarial balance.
We encourage you to contact your representatives in Congress (enter your address to find out who represents you) and share your thoughts on these proposals.
The following Texas representatives are co-sponsors of HR 82:
The following Texas representatives are co-sponsors of HR 5723:
The following Texas representatives are co-sponsors of HR 2337: