The Stand

Rep. Dave Reichert blasted for Medicare cuts in Fast Track bill

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reichert-dave-15SEATTLE (May 29, 2015) — Dozens of advocates for fair trade policies and the Medicare program joined together Thursday to protest a proposal from Rep. Dave Reichert (R-8th) to raid Medicare funds to help finance assistance for workers whose jobs are moved overseas in the wake of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and other NAFTA-like deals.

Waving signs that read “Reichert: Don’t Steal Medicare $” and “Why Should Seniors Pay for Bad Trade Policy,” the raucous crowd of seniors and young activists made sure their message got through to Reichert, who was speaking at a luncheon hosted by a pro-TPP group at Seattle’s World Trade Center.

Congress is currently voting on whether to grant Trade Promotion Authority, known as “Fast Track,” for the negotiation of the TPP and other trade agreements. Fast Track restricts debate and forbids amendments on the deals, allowing only an up-or-down vote in Congress. It narrowly passed the Senate last week, but Fast Track faces a tougher test in the House in June.

Fast-Track-Reichert_signsAt the insistence of Senate Democrats, the Fast Track bill included an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which provides unemployment and job-training benefits to workers who lose their jobs because of these trade deals when manufacturing/production is shifted overseas.

On April 16, a Senate bill to reauthorize the TAA was introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). A day later, Rep. Reichert introduced his House “companion” version, but it included an important difference. Unlike Collins’ version, Reichert proposed covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the TAA extension by cutting $700 million out of future doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.

Reichert’s idea was subsequently included in the Fast Track bill that passed the Senate last Friday. These Medicare cuts — buried in the bill and largely unreported in the media — would have to be removed by the House to be avoided. One of the few reports about Reichert’s plan to raid Medicare funds appeared in the L.A. Times:

Medicare means many things to many people. To seniors, it’s a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it’s most needed.

To Congress, it’s beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided.

That’s the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.

Reichert’s communications and legislative staff refused to respond to a request for comment from The Stand about the congressman’s Medicare cuts.

Maureen Bo of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, who attended Thursday’s protest, called Reichert’s proposal “genuinely” outrageous.

“We urge Congressman Reichert to withdraw his proposal to take funds from the Medicare Trust Fund and from the millions of workers who worked and paid for their Medicare benefits,” she said. “Working people earned those benefits and they are counting on them to be there when the time comes that they are eligible.”

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PSARA’s Robby Stern addresses protesters outside Seattle’s World Trade Center where Rep. Dave Reichert was attending an event on May 28.

“Cutting Medicare to pay for the damage your trade deals inflict on working families is rubbing salt in an open wound,” said Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We call on David Reichert to drop this horrible idea, to protect Medicare, and to do his duty as Congressman and make sure trade deals benefit everyone. That means rejecting Fast Track.”

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Posted by on May 29 2015. Filed under LOCAL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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