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Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks at a press conference

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks alongside fellow progressive lawmakers following a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on October 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Jayapal Demands Vote on Bill to Expand Social Security by Making the Rich Pay

One group argued passing legislation to boost the program's benefits would "make it clear to voters that Democrats are working to expand Social Security" while "Republicans want to destroy it."

Jake Johnson

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, urged the House Democratic leadership on Tuesday to hold a vote on legislation that would expand Social Security benefits by making wealthy Americans contribute more to the beloved New Deal-era program.

"Republicans are against expanding Social Security, even as millions of seniors are struggling to survive."

In 2022, Social Security contributions are capped at the first $147,000 of wage income, meaning that much of the income of millionaires and billionaires is exempt from the program's payroll tax. People who make $1 million a year stopped paying into Social Security on February 24 of this year, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Jayapal (D-Wash.) notes that the across-the-board benefit increase proposed by Rep. John Larson's (D-Conn.) Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust would be "paid for by making millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as everyone else by ensuring the payroll tax is applied to wages above $400,000."

"This bill's rapid adoption by the House of Representatives will demonstrate Democrats' commitment to furthering the legacy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and strengthening the most important anti-poverty program in America's history," Jayapal wrote. "It increases benefits across the board at a time of higher inflation, protects low-income seniors, widows, and widowers, ends wait-times for those with disabilities needing support, and more."

Larson's bill, the latest version of which was introduced in October, currently has 201 co-sponsors in the House. Notably, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)—the second-ranking Democrat in the lower chamber—are not among the legislation's supporters.

A companion measure in the Senate led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has just four co-sponsors.

According to a summary released by Larson's office, Social Security 2100 would provide a modest benefit increase "equivalent to an average of 2% of benefits to make up for inadequate Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) since 1983."

The bill would also adjust the existing COLA formula to protect Social Security's tens of millions of beneficiaries from inflation—which is currently at its highest level in decades—and set the minimum benefit at 25% above the poverty line.

"The expeditious House passage of this legislation will show the American people that Democrats are delivering on their promise to protect and improve this lifesaving program," Jayapal argued.

Jayapal's demand came weeks after Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chair of the Senate GOP's campaign arm, unveiled a legislative agenda that would sunset "all federal legislation" after five years—a policy that would result in the repeal of Social Security.

"Republicans are against expanding Social Security, even as millions of seniors are struggling to survive," the progressive advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted Tuesday. "And they want to 'sunset' (AKA terminate) Social Security within five years if they gain control of the Senate."

Social Security Works applauded Jayapal for demanding a vote on Social Security 2100, noting that "90% of House Democrats are already co-sponsors of the bill."

"It's time for a vote on protecting and expanding Social Security," the group wrote. "Not only is [Larson's bill] the right policy, it's also smart politics for Democrats. Make it clear to voters that Democrats are working to expand Social Security. Meanwhile, Republicans want to destroy it."

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