WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers and their staff members convened on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening and lamented over the fate of social security and Medicare at an event sponsored by a senior citizens advocacy organization.
The Association of Mature American citizens — or "the conservative AARP" as group members will good-naturedly say — hosted the event in the Cannon House Office Building to pay tribute to Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) who the group said have taken it upon themselves to advocate for the issues of older Americans with the AMAC award. During the laid back event, AMAC supporters advocated for Medicare and promoted their policy positions, such as a 1 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA).
After receiving her award, Black warned that Medicare would soon not be available as a resource unless the program was ultimately reformed and blamed Democrats who accuse Republicans of wanting to eradicate the program for promoting a "false narrative to scare people."
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington with members of the House GOP leadership. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
"[Democrats] are wrong because if you do nothing, that's when it will go away," Black said in an interview with TheBlaze. "Doing nothing ensures that in 2030 Medicare will go bankrupt."
Black said lawmakers "really need to do an an overhaul" of Medicare as "things have changed" since it was implemented in 1965. For example, she said, thousands of baby boomers who are recently retiring create a large influx of people drawing out of the program while less people working mean less money going into it.
"The pot is going to go empty unless we reform the way Medicare is done," Black said.
"During my first year on the House Budget Committee, then-Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and our members saw the Medicare trustee’s report indicating that the program was on a path to bankruptcy and we made a decision that our budget for the coming year would offer a proposal to save this program for future retirees," Black told TheBlaze. "The plan that we have embraced, and that is once again reflected in this year’s budget, calls for premium support — which is a guaranteed program that allows seniors to choose the health coverage that best suits their needs from a list of plans — including the traditional Medicare option."
Besides an overhaul, Black also said AMAC's proposals are a way to preserve both social security benefits and Medicare for the future.
"The whole idea is to guarantee social security, the basic benefits; give older, poor people more money than they're getting now," Dan Weber, AMAC's president, told TheBlaze in an interview during the event.
To do that, Weber said the organization supports a variety of initiatives such as a 3 percent guaranteed increase to social security, setting back the minimum age to receive benefits to 69-years-old and the addition of early retirement accounts. Weber's proposals, including setting back the minimum age requirement, have gotten bipartisan support from both lawmakers and AMAC's older members, he said.
"Next year our members are going to suffer a loss because [the cost of] food went up almost 2 percent, medical costs went up 3 percent, and we're not getting a COLA for next year," Weber said. "So we have some congressmen here tonight who are going to introduce a bill shortly that would give a 1 percent COLA minimum for next year. It's just a one time, one shot COLA for everybody on social security next year."
Weber told TheBlaze AMAC had several ideas as to how to save money elsewhere in the budget in order to offset any additional costs their proposal would incur. He also touted the organization's bipartisan support but argued that more bipartisanship needed to be had on the issue of social security.
"Ronald Reagan said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, bring this wall down.' Well, unfortunately in Congress, we have a wall between the Democrats and the Republicans and AMAC is saying 'Congress, tear that wall down. Let's work together.' And we think that will work," Weber said. "We've had a lot of conversations with staffers and people on both sides of the aisle and we are getting support."
Rep. Black receiving award from AMAC — "the conservative AARP." pic.twitter.com/UCq0TNLsT3— Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@K_Schallhorn) October 21, 2015
Rep. Blackburn also received the AMAC Award pic.twitter.com/yJN0SPbfzl— Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@K_Schallhorn) October 21, 2015