Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that she is working “very closely” with Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on an omnibus spending bill that the lawmakers hope to introduce during the week of Dec. 8.
Speaking to reporters after a forum on the future of Social Security held on Capitol Hill by Social Security Works and the American Federation of Government Employees, Mikulski said she and Rogers are hammering out the “money” agreements and will move next week to working on “riders” to the bill.
Mikulski said she was “excited” by the event’s title, “Strengthen Social Security, Don’t Cut It,” and that she is “fighting mad, fired up and I’m ready to go” to “fight against the coming tide of budget cutters” and to tell the story of why Social Security “continues to be the most important part of our [Americans’] social safety net.”
Social Security, she said, “must always be a reliable …and undeniable benefit” for the American people, adding that it needs to be “strengthened” and “even reformed.”
Mikulski also said that lawmakers need to confirm Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin to be commissioner “before” the new Congress starts on Jan. 3.
Social Security was funded at $11.046 billion in FY2013 post-sequester.
Mikulski fought for a $640 million increase over FY13 post-sequester levels at $11.69 billion in the FY2014 omnibus bill. In the FY2015 Labor-HHS Senate bill, Social Security is funded at $11.92 billion–a $224 million increase over the FY14 omnibus bill.
Colvin said Tuesday that the SSA has “no plans to close offices in 2015, because we expect at least a level budget,” and that while she is “committed to a field structure,” she wants Social Security recipients to have a “smorgasbord of services.”
Mikulski had included in the Senate’s Labor-HHS bill language that says her committee “remains concerned” about the Social Security Administration’s “lack of transparency in its policies and procedures for proposing to close field offices.” The committee directed SSA to develop a process that would provide an opportunity for community input.