Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) is posed to reintroduce a House 160 resolution that he introduced on March 1, 2016, to reestablish the House Select Committee on Aging, hoping that the second time is the charm. The resolution would bring back the House Permanent Select Committee on Aging, eliminated to reduce House operating over 26 years ago. While operating, from October 1974 to October 1992, the Select Committee had been instrumental in conducting research and publishing a number of reports on elder abuse, leading to the passage of legislation that would improve nursing home care and abuse against residents. Committee’s legislative efforts also resulted in increased home care benefits, establishing research and care centers for Alzheimer’s Disease, and many other legislative accomplishments on a broad array of aging issues.
Over 26 years later, on March 1, 2016, Cicilline introduced his House resolution 16 to reestablish the Committee. Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI) and 23 other cosigners (no Republicans) out of 435 lawmakers became cosigners but no legislative action was taken.
Making a Commitment to Project Seniors
Cicilline had initially approached House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and followed up with a letter to allow House resolution 16 to be considered on the House Floor. However, Ryan declined to do so.
Looking back, Cicilline said, “I think many of my Democratic colleagues didn’t think this resolution would get much traction with a Republican controlled House, but we did get Seniors Task Force Co-Chairs, Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), which is important. With Democrats in the majority, I think there will be more interest from other members in this resolution,” he said.
According to Cicilline, a newly resurrected House Select Committee on Aging would allow Congress to “fulfill its commitment to current and future seniors and would allow us to develop policies, funding priorities, and legislative proposals to ensure that seniors are able to live their retirement years with dignity and are able to enjoy a high quality of life.”
Cicilline added, “Our nation’s seniors deserve dedicated attention by lawmakers to consider the legislative priorities that affect them, including strengthening Social Security and Medicare, reducing the costs of prescription drugs, and the particular challenges of poverty, housing, long-term care, and other important issues.”
Crafting Sound Aging Policy
Max Richtman, CEO and President of the Washington, D.C-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), also sees the value of reestablishing the House Select Committee on Aging. “It would have an impact through oversight hearings and field hearings, laying the groundwork/building momentum for legislation (e.g., Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act) to be considered in the actual committees of jurisdiction (House Ways & Means; House Energy & Commerce), says Richman, a former staff director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and 16-year veteran of Capitol Hill.
Richard Fiesta, Executive Director at the Alliance for Retired Americans, who serves as the current chair of the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, representing over 70 aging groups, says the Alliance for Retired Americans and the LCAO support the reestablishment of the House Select Committee on Aging.
“A House Select Aging Committee will have a very positive impact addressing the myriad of aging issues in America. With the Baby Boomers aging into retirement at increasing rates every year, there is a need to focus on the issues facing older Americans. From earned benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare to home care and aging in place, all facets of aging in America will be strained. A select committee will be an important forum to search for and find solutions,” says Fiesta.
Fernando Torres-Gil, Former Staff Director. U.S. House Select Committee on Aging also gives his thoughts about the select committee’s impact on aging policy. “At a time when our nation is aging and baby boomers are concerned about their retirement and health security, more than ever, we need a congressional committee that can assess and act upon the complex factors that will determine our quality of age in the future,” he said.
When the new Congress begins, Cicilline will reintroduce the resolution and build support from his House colleagues and present the proposal to the Democratic House leadership. “We will try to make this a bipartisan effort and hope to find Republicans who would be supportive. My office will be reaching out to aging groups (including the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, AARP and the NCPSSM) for their support once the new bill is introduced.