Cicilline to Reintroduce Resolution to Reestablish House Aging Committee

Published in the Woonsocket Call on November 18, 2018

In October 1992, the House eliminated the House Permanent Select Committee on Aging charged with investigating and putting a spotlight on aging policy. The Committee was instrumental in conducting research and publishing a number of reports on elder abuse, leading to the passage of reform legislation intended to improve nursing home operations and reduce abuse against patients. The Committee’s work also led to increased home care benefits for the aging, establishing research and care centers for Alzheimer’s Disease, and many other accomplishments on a broad array of aging issues.

Over 26 years later, on March 1, 2016, Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced his House resolution 160 to reestablish the Committee. He would attract Rhode Island Congressman James R. Langevin (D-RI) and 23 other cosigners (no Republicans) out of 435 lawmakers, but would ultimately see no legislative action taken. “I discussed this proposal with Speaker Paul Ryan (R- WI) and followed up with a letter asking him to move forward with this idea, but he declined to do so.”

“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 was important,” says the Rhode Island Congressman.

A New Opportunity with a House Democratic Majority

With a Republican-controlled Congress successfully blocking Cicilline’s simple resolution from reaching the floor for a vote, the Democratic lawmaker says he will reintroduce House resolution 160 in the new Congress with the Democrats controlling the chamber’s legislative agenda. “With Democrats in the majority, I think there will be more interest from other members in this resolution,” he says, noting, “We will try to make this a bipartisan effort and hope to find Republicans who would be supportive.

“I will first reintroduce the resolution [in the new Congress] and build support from members and then present the proposal to my House leadership. We will try to make this a bipartisan effort and hope to find Republicans who would be supportive,” says Cicilline, noting that he will reach out to aging groups for support, including the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, whose leadership includes Alliance for Retired Americans, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and AARP.

“Of course, I would be honored to lead the reestablished House Permanent Select Committee on Aging, but that decision will be made by the incoming Speaker,” says Cicilline.

According to Cicilline, the House can readily create an ad hoc (temporary) select committee by approving a simple resolution that contains language establishing the committee—giving a purpose, defining membership, and detailing other aspects. Funding would be up to the Appropriations Committee. Salaries and expenses of standing committees, special and select, are authorized through the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

Cicilline says that a newly established House Permanent Select Committee on Aging would be charged to conduct comprehensive studies on aging policy issues, funding priorities and trends. As its predecessor, its efforts would not be limited by narrow jurisdictional boundaries of the standing committee but broadly at targeted aging policy issues.

“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,” adds Cicilline.

Aging Advocates Call for Reestablishing the House Select Committee on Aging

When Max Richtman, CEO and President of the Washington, D.C-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), and former Staff Director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, heard of Cicilline’s efforts to bring back the House Select Committee on Aging almost three years ago, he remarked, “It’s long overdue.” The Select Committee will once again provide serious oversight and lay the ground work for House legislative proposals impacting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he said.

Richtman says that NCPSSM has just joined a working group to push for the reestablishment of the House Permanent Select Committee on Aging spearheaded by Howard Bedlin of the National Council on Aging. This group will devise strategies to resurrect the Committee, adds Richtman.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director at the Alliance for Retired Americans, whose organization chairs the LCAO, representing over 70 aging groups, says that its membership voted this month to support and push for the reestablishment of the House Select Committee on Aging. “Members during the discussion expressed views that the Committee can be a focal point on aging issues such as such as Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, long term care, and prescription drug prices,” says Fiesta, noting that it could provide important oversight on the U.S. Administration of Aging programs and be a forum for emerging issues such as home care needs.

“With 10,000 American turning age 65 each day, a Select Committee on Aging would be an important step in addressing the needs of older Americans,” says Fiesta.

Bill Benson, a former staff director of the Subcommittee on Housing and Consumer Interests, one of the four subcommittees of the House Select Committee on Aging, concurs with Richtman that the establishing the Committee is “long overdue.”

“During the 26 years we’ve been without the House counterpart to the Senate Special Committee on Aging,” which Benson also served on, “the House has not had an equivalent powerful voice for advancing critical issues for an aging society as we’ve had in the Senate. To successfully improve national policy requires both chambers of the Congress to be fully engaged. Restoring the House Select Committee on Aging would be important to do that.”

Howard Bedlin, National Council on Aging Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, adds: “A House Select Committee on Aging will raise visibility of the challenges older Americans are facing every day and support the work of authorizing committees to craft bipartisan policy solutions. Aging is an issue for all Americans. Discussion about the systemic strains that come with longevity and a growing aging population, or highlighting the many intergenerational needs of families across the country can only lead to better understanding and ultimately better support for all Americans as we age.”

Taking an Important Step to Protecting Seniors

As Cicilline gears up to put together the bipartisan support to pass his reintroduced to reestablish the House Permanent Select Committee on Aging, he says, “Overall, this resolution represents an important step towards protecting our seniors and the benefits they have earned, like Social Security and Medicare.”

“The reestablishment of this Select Committee on Aging would emphasize Congress’ commitment to our current and future seniors and would allow us to focus our energy to ensure that they are able to live with dignity and enjoy a high quality of life,” he adds.

A Washington insider tells me that some Democratic House lawmakers and aging groups are now pushing to reestablish the House Select Committee on Aging through new rules enacted by the incoming House Democratic leadership. The Washington, DC-based LCAO can now play a pivotal role in reestablishing the House Select Committee by advocating for and supporting Cicilline’s resolution that will be introduced in the next Congress or backing the attempt to change House rules. As the House takes up in the new Congress its debates on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, and other issues of importance to older adults, it will be important to have a House Select Committee that once again puts the spotlight and attention on America’s aging issues.

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Everyone Loves a Countdown

In his own words, this writer’s top 5 commentaries of 2015

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 27, 2015

As a columnist on “the aging beat” it has been a very eventful year in covering aging, health care and medical issues. During 2015, over 47 weekly commentaries appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. By reading my weekly commentaries readers were kept abreast on a dazzling array of aging issues including Congressional attempts to whittle away the Social Security and Medicare programs. They learned first-hand about the Rhode Island General Assembly’s move to not tax Social Security and to provide new benefits to Ocean State caregivers. Commentaries even touched on the passing away of Wayne Dwyer and Capitol TV’s Dave Barber, how to put the fire back in your relationship, and even travel tips.

Below are five article, providing you with the breadth and depth of my commentaries. Al other articles can be found on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.

1. “Cicilline Spearheading Key Comeback: Rep. Wants to Reestablish House Select Committee on Aging, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the Dec. 21 issue of the Pawtucket Times.

After Congress eliminated the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993 to rein in costs, this commentary takes a close look at Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) and 63 House colleagues efforts to urge the newly elected GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in correspondence to bring back the Aging panel to the House Chamber. It was extremely obvious to Cicilline and his cosigners of the House Aging panel’s importance to today’s Congress, especially with efforts to put Social Security and Medicare on the budgetary chopping block. In the late 1980s as a journalist covering Capitol Hill I saw first-hand how the former Aging panel’s bipartisan approach ultimately created sound aging. Working together for the common good of older Americans is sorely needed now with a House divided. Cicilline’s legislative efforts to bring this select committee back to life, can send a powerful message that the House is ready to confront concerns of the nation’s seniors. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/cicilline-spearingheading-key-comeback/.

2, Pausch’s The Last Lecture Is a Must Read,” published in the Jan. 30 issue of the Pawtucket Times. The 206 page book, “The Last Lecture” coauthored by Randy Pausch and Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, published by Hyperion in 2008, is a great read for those wanting to get their life’s priorities in order. The tome is jam-packed with Pausch’s wisdom that will certainly come in handy to the reader when confront by the “brick walls” or challenges in personal and/or professional careers

This commentary details the thoughts of terminally ill Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Professor Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old father of three who had from three to six more months to live at the time he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2007. One month before his death he gave his last lecture, part of an ongoing CMU lecture series where top academics give their “final talk,” revealing what really matters to them and the insights gleaned over their life if it was their last opportunity. Sadly, Pausch literally got his last chance to give his talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/pauschs-the-last-lecture-is-a-must-read.

3. “You are Never Too Old for Romance,” published in the February 13 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Rekindling your relationship may be as simple as packing your bags and taking a romantic trip. In this commentary AARP’s Love and Relationships Ambassador Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle Washington, says the findings reveal a need for couples to plan romantic getaways as a way to spend quality time with their partner and bolster their relationship.

In this commentary Dr. Schwartz, co-author of the newly released book Places for Passion, says “I wish we could be as romantic at home as we can on a trip but there is something about getting away that lets us forget about our daily stuff and instead, fully concentrate on each other. When we stay at home, it’s hard not to answer the phone or try to answer one more email but in fact, we seem to need to get away to have a new stage setting’ for romance to bring out the best in us.” Couples with children can take a short trip without them to boost the romance in their relationship, she says. Readers will find the commentary chock-full of tips for heightening the romance on the trip. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/baby-boomers-can-spice-up-valentines-day.

4. “Sensible Advice from Seasoned Folk to the Class of 2015,” published in the May 17 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the May 18 Pawtucket Times. Every year very notable and professionally successful commencement speakers gather at the nation’s Colleges and Universities to give the graduating seniors their practical tips and advice as how to have a rewarding personal and professional life. This commentary calls for the end of the practice of bringing celebrities, politicians and corporate heads to give commence speakers. Regular people will do. Thirteen Rhode Islanders, many not recognized on the street but well-known in their communities were asked to give their “pearls of wisdom” to graduating seniors if they had the opportunity. They most certainly did. Go to:  http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/sensible-advice-from-seasoned-folk-to-the-class-of-2015.

5. “Aggressive Scams Popping up All around the Ocean State,” published in the November 25 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the November 26 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Throughout the year there were several commentaries to increase the reader’s awareness of protecting themselves from financial scams. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission list of top consumer fraud complaints last year, more than 6,200 Rhode Island residents were victims of imposter scams. The commentary details one scam where the caller “Sergeant Bradley” threatens a person with a felony for not appearing in court unless they immediate make a payment on a debit card.

The commentary details AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. By registering for the free service a person can receive alerts via smart phone or your computer when a new scam surfaces. This program also allows you to report a scam going around your neighborhood that is shared across the network. For those not connected to the Internet, you can receive alerts and tips via a quarterly newsletter mailed to homes. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin calls for “constant vigilance” and gives tips also gives tips on protecting yourself against scams.

 

Cicilline Spearheading key comeback?

Rep. Wants to Reestablish House Select Committee on Aging

Published in Woonsocket Call on December 20, 2015

Four years after the Rep. Claude Pepper, (D-Florida) died in 1989, the former Chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, would be turning in his grave with the elimination of his beloved Aging Panel three other House Select Committees in 1993.  Serving as its chair for six years, the nation’s most visible spokesperson for the elderly, put the spotlight on aging issues in his chamber.

In 1973, the House Select Committee on Aging was authorized by a House whopping vote of 323 to 84.  While in lacked the authority to introduce legislation (although its members often did so in their standing committees), the House Aging panel begin to conduct comprehensive studies on specific aging issues to identify issues, problems and trends.  It was not limited by narrow jurisdictional boundaries of the standing committees but looked broadly at the targeted aging issue.

Congressional belt-tightening to match President Clinton’s White House staff cuts and efforts to streamline its operations would seal the fate of the House Select Committee on Aging. House lawmakers supporting the elimination of the House Aging panel viewed its $1.5 million a waste because 12 standing committees had jurisdiction over aging issues. Those opposed to putting the House Select Committee on Aging on the chopping block to rein in Congressional spending charged that the standing committees staff did not have time broadly investigate issues of the nation’s seniors as this select committee did..

Even with the mobilization and lobbying efforts of a coalition of aging groups including AARP, National Council on Aging, National Council of Senior Citizens, and Older Woman’s League to save the House Select Committee on Aging, House leadership ultimately chose to “put the nails in the coffin.”  No vote was scheduled to continue its existence on March 31, 1993 when its authorization automatically expired.

But did the House Select Committee on Aging really have an impact on the development of aging policy crafted by Congress as its supporters contend?   In 1993, with the demise of this select committee staff, writer Rebecca H. Patterson reported on March 31, 1993 in the St. Petersberg Times (p.8A)that Staff Director Brian Lutz noted that during its 18 years, the House Aging panel “has been responsible for about 1,000 hearings and reports.” This writer believes that the House Select Committee on Aging’s advocacy role prodded Congress to act abolishing forced retirement, investigating nursing homes, monitoring breast screening for older woman, improving elderly housing and putting the spotlight on elder abuse and the issues nation’s caregivers face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Bringing the Aging Panel Back from the Ashes

After the disbandment of the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993, a brief effort was undertaken by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) when she became House Speaker to bring back the Aging panel but this attempt was not successful.  Last month, Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), representing the State’s First Congressional District, urged newly elected GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in November 6th  correspondence to bring back the Aging Panel to the House Chamber.  There were 63 cosigners out of 435 lawmakers, all of them democrats, says the Democratic Lawmaker, who noted that many who did not sign wanted “additional time to review the proposal with their staff.”

It was extremely obvious to Cicilline and his cosigners as to the House Aging panel’s importance to today’s Congress.  “The considerable challenges that face our nation’s seniors, including Social Security and Medicare solvency, the rising cost of prescription drugs, poverty, housing issues, and location term care and other important issues, deserve dedicated attention from lawmakers, said Cicilline in his correspondence to Ryan and House GOP leadership.

Furthermore, Cicilline stressed the select committees relevant today as America’s baby boomers face the struggles of growing old.  “The addition of this demographic to the senior population will require thoughtful policy development and a focused effort to meet the many challenges by the increasing senior population”. He added that “Strains on resources for America’s seniors not only impact the elderly, but also those who support them, including family and professionals who provide care to seniors.”

A Quick Legislative Process

Cicilline notes that the House can readily create a temporary ad hoc select committee by approving a simple resolution that contains language establishing the committee – giving purpose, defining members and detailing other issues that need to be addressed. All standing and select committees of the House (except Appropriations) are authorized by a House resolution, and funding is then provided through appropriations, he adds.  “If the Speaker is supportive of the initiative, we would like draft and introduce a House Resolution establishing the committee, says Cicilline.

Robert Blancato, the longest serving staff member on the House Select Committee on aging, knows that the cost issue may be brought up to derail Cicilline’s efforts to reestablish the House Aging panel in 2016.  “There are certainly costs involved but an effective committee can be operated with a reasonable budget,” he says.  Now with Matz, Blancato and Associates, a strategic consulting and public relations firm, he is firmly behind Cicilline’s efforts.

“The aging population and its issues from chronic care to care giving have grown dramatically since the end of the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993.  No [Congressional] committees and defined Congressional champion has emerged since that time.  A new Aging panel would be very relevant for the future,” notes Blancato.

As an eye-witness to the legislative activities of the Aging panel for 17, Blancato’s keen political observations must be heard by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  The House Select Committee on Aging, with its bipartisan approach to crafting sound aging policy, is sorely needed now with a House divided and “compromise” being touted by some in the chamber as a “dirty word.” By bring this select committee back to life, House lawmakers can send a powerful symbolic message that they are ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle issues of concern to the nation’s seniors. Cicilline along with his letter’s cosigners calling for bringing by the Aging panel are definitely on the right track.