WASHINGTON—As the Senate negotiates the next COVID-19 relief package, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and 14 Republican and Democratic cosponsors today introduced the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act of 2020, bipartisan and bicameral legislation which would create a process to rescue the endangered federal trust funds and rein in the national debt. The TRUST Act of 2020 is an updated version of the TRUST Act, which Senator Romney initially introduced last year. A one pager of the legislation is available here, text of the legislation is available here, and a section-by-section of the legislation is available here.
The TRUST Act of 2020 is cosponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Angus King (I-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ed Case (D-HI), William Timmons (R-SC), Ben McAdams (D-UT), and Scott Peters (D-CA) previously introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Recently, 60 House members – evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – wrote a letter urging their leadership to include the TRUST Act in the next relief package.
“Among its many devastating effects, COVID-19 has threatened the fiscal health of essential programs like Medicare and Social Security,” Senator Romney said. “If Congress does not respond quickly, the day of insolvency for these programs will now come years sooner than expected. The TRUST Act is a bipartisan solution to shore up these programs and get us off the path of fiscal danger.”
“Our budgets must be a reflection of our priorities while maintaining fiscal responsibility,” Senator Manchin said. “Generations of irresponsibly cutting taxes combined with spending beyond our means has left the important programs on which we all depend – Medicare, Social Security, highways, and pensions – on the brink of insolvency. The financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have only compounded the problem. While I recognize that now is not the time to gut federal investments, we cannot continue to ignore this reality. I’m proud to join a bipartisan group of colleagues to re-introduce the TRUST Act to give us a roadmap to getting our fiscal house in order when we get on the other side of this pandemic.”
“As we continue to confront the coronavirus pandemic, we must ensure our schools and employers can safely reopen and our health care providers have the resources they need to fight this virus. At the same time, we need to lay the foundation for restoring fiscal health through economic growth and fiscal responsibility. By including the TRUST Act in the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation, we can set in motion a bipartisan national plan to finally begin tackling the long-term drivers of our national debt once we get through this crisis,” Senator Young said.
“As we take bold action to keep our communities healthy and our economy out of a depression, we must also have a plan in place to put future federal spending on a sustainable path,” Senator Sinema said. “Our bipartisan, commonsense bill protects the retirement benefits Arizonans have earned while helping address our nation’s debt and grow America’s economic opportunities.”
“Without responsible action, many of our nation’s trust funds will eventually be depleted,” Senator Capito said. “The TRUST Act provides a path toward commonsense, bipartisan solutions that strengthens these programs and puts them on a solid foundation for years to come. Preserving these trust funds is critical to America’s future.”
“Millions of Americans rely on Medicare and Social Security to live in dignity, and that’s why we need to protect these programs and ensure their sustainability for future generations,” Senator Jones said. “As we take action to lift our economy out of the recession caused by COVID-19, we must also keep an eye toward the future and our country’s long-term financial health. The TRUST Act is a responsible path forward to address the national debt while safeguarding the hard-earned retirement benefits Americans count on.”
“The real driver of our out-of-control federal debt is mandatory or entitlement spending—which is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt. As spending on mandatory entitlements and interest grows, there will be less money for national defense, national laboratories, national parks, and the National Institutes of Health,” Senator Alexander said. “Mitt Romney has created a responsible, practical process for dealing with our country’s persistent debt dilemma. This legislation is a step in the right direction towards making the tough choices for our nation’s largest entitlement programs. If we don’t make tough decisions now, we’ll have let America slip from the hands of the ‘greatest generation’ to the ‘debt-paying generation’ with nothing to show for it but the bill.”
“The pandemic has not only presented unprecedented health care and economic challenges to our country, it’s also accelerated the growth of our deficits and national debt, which now exceeds $26.5 trillion. The TRUST Act helps address this issue by creating bipartisan commissions for each critical trust fund projected to become insolvent, protecting program beneficiaries and future generations of taxpayers alike,” Senator Portman said.
“Until we fix this broken funding process and save Social Security and Medicare, we’re not going to make any real headway on the debt,” Senator Perdue said. “We need to get serious about this problem, before it becomes too late for us to do the right thing. The TRUST Act is a bipartisan effort that puts us on the right track to find solutions to protect these critical programs while we continue focusing on the long-term goal of solving our debt crisis.”
“Millions of Texans rely on the safety net provided by programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Senator Cornyn said. “We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and must ensure these funds are available for future generations, and this legislation would help ensure the solvency of these critical programs.”
“I strongly support efforts to manage the 70 percent of the budget that we don’t currently vote on,” Senator Rounds said. “This is the biggest driver of our debt. This legislation creates congressional committees specifically tasked to develop legislation to restore and strengthen endangered federal trust funds. Without legislative action, the government’s trust funds—Highway, Medicare Hospital Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance—will be exhausted in the next thirteen years. It is irresponsible for Congress to continue ignoring this preventable crisis. If we establish a process now in which we can actually manage these trusts, we will be able to get a better handle on our debt. This effort prevents these vital programs from becoming insolvent and protects the citizens these programs are intended to benefit.”
“Medicare, Social Security, and care for disabled citizens are crucial components of the social contract our nation makes with its people – but despite their importance, the long-term financial outlook for the federal trust funds that support these programs grows dimmer by the year,” said Senator King. “We need to come together to take steps that set these programs up for continued financial stability, for the sake of the tens of millions of Americans that rely on them. Ignoring these problems won’t create solutions; dedicated, bipartisan efforts will.”
HOW THE TRUST ACT OF 2020 WORKS:
- At the beginning of January 2021, the Treasury would have to deliver to Congress a report of the government’s major, endangered federal trust funds.
- Congressional leaders would appoint members to serve on “Rescue Committees”—one per trust fund—with the mandate to draft legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves each trust fund program.
- Rescue Committees would ensure bipartisan consensus by requiring at least two members of each party to report legislation.
- If a Rescue Committee reports a qualifying bill for its trust fund program, it would receive expedited consideration in both chambers. While 60 votes would be required to invoke cloture prior to final passage in the Senate, only a simple majority would be needed for the motion to proceed, which would be privileged.
SUPPORT FOR THE TRUST ACT:
“While most people in Washington would prefer to put – or leave! – their heads in the sand, the TRUST Act would create a truly bipartisan process to save these important programs. We know from personal experience that when Democrats, Republicans, and Independents honestly work together in good faith, they can identify real and lasting solutions: the Fiscal Commission recommendations were supported by 11 of 18 commissioners. We earnestly thank Senators Romney and Manchin, Representatives Gallagher and Case, and other co-sponsors for taking the lead on this important and vital effort. Time is running out to enact critical and thoughtful reforms to appropriately fund our infrastructure and return solvency to Social Security and Medicare.” –Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a bipartisan group of 60 House members wrote, “As the crisis recedes and our nation recovers, we cannot ignore the pressing issue of the national debt, which could do irreparable damage to our country. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt held by the public is likely to exceed 100 percent of GDP in just a few months, and it will hit record levels in a few years. In addition, trust funds for some of our most critical programs will face exhaustion far sooner than we expected as a result of the current crisis. Trust fund insolvency threatens serious hardship for those who depend on the programs…We, therefore, respectfully request that further pandemic-response legislation include provisions for future budget reforms to ensure we confront these issues when the economy is strong enough, Enacting a consensus process like the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act would create special bipartisan, bicameral rescue committees to give these programs the priority and urgency they deserve.”
“Some of the federal government’s most important trust fund programs are headed toward insolvency. The TRUST Act offers renewed hope that we can address these imbalances before it is too late. Senators Romney and Manchin deserve great praise for taking on a challenge that far too many ignore, by proposing to establish a process to achieve bipartisan solutions. The commissions established under the TRUST Act would be charged with securing programs like Social Security, Medicare, and the highway fund so that they are stronger, more effective, and continue to be there for current and future generations. The bill wouldn’t force policymakers to agree, but it would force them to try to work together. That goal should have unanimous support.” –Maya MacGuineas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Addressing long-term federal budget shortfalls is going to take many bold actions by our political leaders and the problem is so big that it often seems unclear where even to start. Senators Romney, Manchin, Young, Jones, and Sinema, and Representatives Gallagher, Case, Timmons and McAdams have shown how Congress can take that first step and take it a long way in the right direction. Addressing the federal trust funds in a bipartisan manner is a promising way to make a down payment on long-term fiscal reform. ” –Bill Gale, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
“The budget debate in Washington has hit an all-time low since President Trump took office, with Congressional Republicans passing a $2 trillion deficit-financed tax cut and some on the far left proposing tens of trillions of dollars in new spending without a plan to pay for it. The TRUST Act bucks this harmful trend and starts an important conversation about what tax increases and spending cuts will be needed to secure the future of Social Security and Medicare, as well as fund critical public investments in our nation’s ageing infrastructure. Congress must strengthen these and other important programs for Americans of all ages.” –Ben Ritz, Director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Funding America’s Future