Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending September 23, 2016

Breakdown in Negotiations to Prevent a Government Shutdown

This week, talks broke down between Republican and Democratic negotiators on a short-term funding measure to prevent the government from shutting down on October 1. A vote is expected next Tuesday on a GOP bill which provides $1.1 billion in Zika aid, $400 million in emergency aid for flooding in Louisiana, and extends funding for federal programs through December 7. Democrats have expressed strong concerns that this bill fails to include aid for Flint and includes a policy “rider” that would block the disclosure of campaign contributions by publicly-traded corporations. 

AFSCME strongly encourages Congress to include Flint relief, eliminate poison pill riders from the package, and do their job to keep the government functioning. 

Overtime: The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Congressional leaders are wasting no time or effort in trying to delay the effective date of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new overtime rule, set for implementation on December 1, which expands overtime coverage that will result in 12.5 million workers getting a pay increase.

This week, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) introduced legislation (H.R. 6094) that is intended to delay implementation of the overtime rule for six months. He alleges that the economic impact of the overtime rule on small businesses, nonprofits, and colleges and universities would be harmful. But that is just not true. Experts insist this rule is a critical opportunity to create better jobs and improve the economic lives of low-wage working people.  Earlier this summer, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced similar legislation (H.R. 513) that would switch to a three-year phase-in of the DOL’s overtime rule instead of full implementation on December 1.

While this issue is playing out in Congress, this week 21 states and over 50 business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, filed two lawsuits in a federal court in Texas to block the rule, alleging that the DOL acted unconstitutionally.

All of these efforts are direct attacks on American families and workers – hindering job creation, protections for millions of workers, and a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. AFSCME will keep supporting this historic and long overdue update that would raise the salary threshold below which most workers are eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. 

House Panel Examines Mylan’s Price Gouging for EpiPens®

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing this week to examine the steeply rising price of EpiPens®, for which the drug company Mylan has increased the price by 400% over 10 years to the current price of $600 a pack.  A recent study found Medicare Part D spending for the EpiPen® increased from $7.0 million in 2007 to $87.9 million in 2014, an increase of 1,151%.  In a letter to the Committee, AFSCME pointed out that families’ experience with the price of this drug illustrates a larger problem in drug pricing for all consumers. American prescription drug prices are the highest in the world.  AFSCME called upon Congress to change the rules on drug prices and specifically to allow Medicare the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices.  AFSCME also urged Congress to curb excess profits and monopolies in drug pricing through direct government investment in research and development and public ownership of patent rights.  It is time for Congress to change the rules related to prescription drug prices. 

Competing Social Security Solvency Projections

Social Security consistently and reliably pays benefits to about 60 million Americans. Nearly every year, Congress looks at Social Security’s long-term finances. This week, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on projections for the long-term solvency of Social Security trust funds.

Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary at the Social Security Administration (SSA) – which has been making solvency projections since 1935 – reported a relatively modest expected shortfall.  Dr. Keith Hall, economist at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), put forward a substantially more pessimistic projection.  It is worth noting that CBO has only been making these projections for about a decade.

While Social Security does face long-term solvency challenges, today its trust funds have a $2.8 trillion surplus. SSA’s actuaries have for some time anticipated a manageable shortfall that can be addressed with congressional tweaks to the program.

AFSCME will continue to support policies that strengthen Social Security, and oppose those that would weaken it.   

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