Issues / Legislation

Week Ending July 26, 2019

Multiyear Budget Deal Approved

AFSCME Retirees Storm Congress for Working Families

This week, 125 AFSCME Strong retirees flooded the halls of Congress to fight for current and future benefits that help working families and retirees. Their efforts included meetings with House and Senate members as well as key staff to promote the protection and expansion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen health care and labor rights. Pennsylvania retiree Michael Cangelosi said, “I just want to fight for the AFSCME members who are still working, to preserve these benefits that help us all.”

What You Need to Know: Retirees demanded support for these and other issues in the House and Senate as they met with members of both parties to ensure that their message and stories got across.

Call your representatives today at 1-866-584-5728.

Urge them to support H.R. 3463, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, to level the playing field for working families. This bill will protect our rights as public employees to have a voice on the job and to join together in a union for a fair return on our work.

Senate Sends Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund to President

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 97-2 to pass H.R. 1327, the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Act. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law. The legislation extends through at least fiscal 2092 the Sept. 11 victims’ fund that provides assistance to the firefighters, police officers and other first responders who were hurt and families of those killed as the result of the 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as those involved in the cleanup operations.

What You Need to Know: In February, it was determined that the fund contained insufficient money to pay all outstanding and projected claims. Without this act, payments to victims would have to be cut by at least 50% and as much as 70%.

Agreement Reached on Legislation Lifting Budget Caps

This week, congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement on a budget deal for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The agreement will increase spending on nondefense discretionary programs from $597 billion in 2019 to $621.5 billion in 2020 and $626.5 billion in 2021. 

What You Need to Know: Now that leaders have reached an agreement on the total level of spending, Congress will need to pass the annual spending bills that will determine how much money goes to each specific federal program. AFSCME will be fighting to ensure that the programs most important to supporting the work of AFSCME members receive a fair share of federal funds. 

House Democrats Pass Needed Standards for Immigration Detention 

Only one Republican joined Democrats to create a minimum standard of care for immigrants in detention following official reports of migrants who died under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. 

What You Need to Know: There is no specific humanitarian standard beyond the current enforcement policy that treats all immigrants, including children, as a security threat. Like the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which passed the House on June 4, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and the GOP are unlikely to consider this legislation.

House Passes Multiemployer Pension Bill

The House passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act (H.R. 397) by a vote of 264 to 169. The bill would create a federal loan program for struggling pension plans. The bill now moves to the Senate.

What You Need to Know: The program will be funded entirely through premiums paid by pension funds. The beleaguered plans are mostly in Rust Belt industries where retirees outnumber employees. One of those funds, the Central States Pension Fund, is forecast to run out of money by 2025.