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Letter to the Senate Opposing an Entitlement Commission Proposal

January 19, 2010

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we urge your opposition to a proposal (S. 2853) scheduled for floor vote tomorrow to create a fast-track commission on entitlement reform.  This proposal, offered by Senators Conrad and Gregg, would create a process to bypass Congress and make it easier to implement cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

The commission under consideration would suspend the normal legislative process and, most importantly, congressional debate.    This circumvention of process serves only to avoid political accountability for cutting programs that have kept millions afloat during these difficult economic times. 

Social Security and Medicare did not cause our economic problems. Fiscal discipline is needed, but not at the expense of our nation’s most vulnerable populations.  The burden created by this proposal would fall disproportionately on low-income individuals, particularly minorities, who depend on Social Security and Medicare.  For example, according to the Hispanic Institute, 50 percent of Latinas 65 or older in the U.S. rely on Social Security for 100 percent of their income, and 85 percent of them gain at least half of their income from Social Security.  The House and Senate versions of health-care overhaul legislation would reduce the growth of Medicare and Medicaid by nearly $500 billion over 10 years.  It is unlikely a commission could find new and meaningful cuts in these programs that don’t significantly harm those most in need.  

We are also very concerned that education funding is more vulnerable to across-the-board reductions in discretionary spending, which is likely under such a commission.  Across-the-board reductions do occur occasionally under the regular appropriations process, but there is a greater likelihood of education funding being lumped together with all other discretionary spending increases in this process, irrespective of its priority status. 

Finally, the proposed supermajority vote requirement cedes too much power to the minority at the expense of the majority.  Paradoxically, this could lead to the very gridlock that the commission is attempting to overcome.

We urge you to oppose the creation of such an extraordinary and undemocratic budget commission.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson 
Director of Government Relations