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On FDR's 137th Birthday, 200+ Democrats Unveil Bill to Expand Social Security So 'Seniors Can Retire in Dignity'

"The Secure 2100 Act would increase Social Security's modest benefits for the 63 million Americans receiving them today, as well as every single American who will receive them in the future."

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) speaks during an event to introduce legislation called the Social Security 2100 Act. which would increase increase benefits and strengthen the fund, during a news conference on Capitol Hill January 30, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a move progressives celebrated as an essential step toward ensuring that no one retires into poverty, over 200 House Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would protect and significantly expand Social Security benefits by subjecting the earnings of wealthy Americans to the program's payroll tax.

"Having written several books on the history of Social Security, I am confident that today's bill introduction and what follows will add a significant new chapter to that history."
—Nancy Altman, Social Security Works

Additionally, the Democratic bill would prevent Social Security benefits from eroding over time by more accurately adjusting them to rising costs of living.

In a statement after the measure was introduced, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman applauded the bill's "unprecedented" 200 Democratic co-sponsors for working to guarantee that "every penny of promised Social Security benefits, including the increases, can be paid in full and on time through the 21st century and beyond, just as they always have been paid."

"When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law, he stated that the legislation represented 'a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.' It is extremely fitting that the Social Security 2100 Act was introduced today, the 137th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth," Altman said. "Having written several books on the history of Social Security, I am confident that today's bill introduction and what follows will add a significant new chapter to that history."

Sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the Democrats' legislation would set Social Security's minimum benefit at 25 percent above the poverty line in an effort to combat high levels of senior poverty in the United States while ensuring the program's solvency into the next century.

"The minimum benefit, which has eroded since its enactment in 1972, is increased because the cosponsors do not believe Americans should be forced to retire into poverty after a lifetime of work and contributing," Altman noted in an op-ed for Forbes on Wednesday. "The cosponsors also recognize that Social Security's vital benefits are more important than ever. Reliance on Social Security benefits will only increase in the future as a result of the decline in traditional, employer-sponsored pensions and the proven inadequacy of 401(k) savings plans."

Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging, said passage of Larson's bill "would be a key step in combating senior poverty in our country."

As the Huffington Post's Daniel Marans notes, the legislation's 200 Democratic co-sponsors shows the party has come a long way from the Obama years, when many mainstream Democrats—including President Barack Obama himself—entertained plans to cut to the popular program.

"In less than a decade, mainstream Democrats in Congress have gone from entertaining Social Security cuts to almost universally endorsing the program's expansion," Marans writes. "With Democrats in charge of the House for the first time since this tidal shift upended party orthodoxy, senior members of Congress are setting the stage for the legislative chamber to increase Social Security benefits, bringing a onetime liberal pipe dream a step closer to law."

Watch House Democrats' press conference introducing the bill:

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