The Concord Coalition welcomes the Time to Rescue United States Trusts Act (TRUST Act), introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) in the Senate and Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ed Case (D-HI) and Scott Peters (D-CA) in the House.
“This proposal could prompt bipartisan action on key trust fund depletion dates that threaten indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to vital programs within the next 15 years. It is, in effect, a responsible call to repeal and replace the irresponsible ‘do nothing plan’,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition.
The aim of the bill is to set up a bipartisan process for avoiding depletion, extending solvency, simplifying and otherwise improving major federal trust funds that are projected to be depleted within the next 15 years (by 2036). Among the trust funds that would be covered are those governing Medicare Hospital Insurance, Social Security Old Age and Survivor Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Highways.
“Democrats and Republicans may have very different ideas about how to address the shortfalls in these trust funds, but neither party should want to be responsible for the damaging and disruptive consequences of inaction,” Bixby said.
The Trust Act would establish “Rescue Committees” for each qualifying trust fund with 12 members; six members from each party appointed by House and Senate leaders. All of the Rescue Committees would have bipartisan co-chairs. Each Rescue Committee would receive input from other congressional committees, hold hearings and develop legislative language to carry out their recommendations. In Concord’s view, this legislation makes sense for a number of reasons.
First, the need to find rescue plans for these trust funds is neither hypothetical nor distant. Current projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show all of them being depleted within the time frame for consideration enumerated in the TRUST Act.
Second, the Trust Act does not prescribe or prohibit any particular options. This allows for the broadest possible range of options for the Rescue Committees to draw from.
Third, the process requires bipartisan participation for a rescue plan to be adopted by a committee. A majority vote of each committee would be needed for passage with at least two members of each party being part of that majority. This is a very sound approach because the best way to make sure that a rescue plan stands up over time is to infuse it with bipartisan input at the beginning.
Fourth, the rescue committees are not given a rigid definition of success. This means that the perfect would not become the enemy of the good.
Fifth, and critically, the bill provides that the work of the Rescue Committees would be rewarded with expedited consideration in the House and Senate. In the end, no process can guarantee that elected leaders will not punt, avoid hard decisions or resort to gimmicks. Nor does the goal of trust fund solvency ensure the nation’s overall fiscal sustainability. But the Rescue Committees established under the Trust Act would be a powerful catalyst for meaningful bipartisan action on some of the most pressing fiscal deadlines.
“Time is running out to enact reforms. The Trust Act is a credible way to get the process started and The Concord Coalition applauds its bipartisan, bicameral leaders,” Bixby said.