House to vote on $250 bonus for retirees

Associated PressOctober 15, 2010 

— The House will vote in November to provide $250 payments to Social Security recipients to make up for the lack of a cost-of-living increase for next year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

The Social Security Administration is expected to announce today that more than 58 million retirees and disabled Americans will go a second consecutive year without an increase in benefits.

Pelosi said she will schedule a vote on a bill to provide the $250 payments when Congress returns for a lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 congressional elections. The payments would be similar to those provided by the government's massive economic recovery package last year.

Senate could be a hurdle

But even if Pelosi can get the House to approve a second payment, the proposal faces opposition in the Senate.

"All members of Congress should join us in supporting this legislation, which will be fiscally responsible and upholds our bedrock promise of economic security for our nation's seniors," Pelosi said in a statement.

Cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are set automatically each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress in the 1970s. Because consumer prices are still lower than they were two years ago, the last time aCOLA was awarded, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no benefit increase for 2011.

The projection will be made official today, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases inflation estimates for September. The timing couldn't be worse for Democrats as they approach an election in which they are in danger of losing their House majority, and possibly their Senate majority.

It's a political football

Pelosi's statement comes as Democrats try to make Social Security an election-year issue, accusing Republicans of planning to privatize the national retirement program.

President Barack Obama pushed for a second $250 payment a year ago, but the proposal failed in the Senate when a dozen Democrats joined Republicans to block it.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., has introduced a new bill to provide the $250 payments. Pomeroy, who leads the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, said lawmakers this time may be more supportive after hearing from voters in November.

"Seniors who rely on their modest Social Security payments need these cost-of-living adjustments for their day-to-day survival," Pomeroy said. "Passing this bill will ensure that the lack of cost-of-living adjustment will not jeopardize seniors' ability to survive on their benefits."

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