Senate Nixes Social Security Limits

March 22, 2000



Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -

With both parties wooing elderly voters, the Senate today unanimously passed legislation to quit taking Social Security benefits away from people who continue to work through their late 60s.

The 100-0 vote sends the bill back to the House, which also passed it unanimously on March 1, because the Senate added a measure to assure that 64-year-old workers are not penalized.

President Clinton has said he will sign the bill, and House aides predicted that it will be approved there again as soon as a vote can be scheduled. The change would be made retroactive to Dec. 31, 1999, effectively boosting the income of 800,000 workers 65 through 69 by thousands of dollars before election day next November.

``As the baby boomers begin to retire, it is more important than ever that older Americans who are willing and able to work should not have their Social Security benefits deferred when they do,'' Clinton said in a letter to senators from India, where he is visiting.

Under current law, elderly workers 65 through 69 lose $1 in Social Security benefits for every $3 in wages they make above $17,000.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., recalled how his own mother questioned why she had to give up a part of her Social Security because she worked past the age of 65. ``This is a wonderful piece of legislation,'' Lott said.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in statement ``This is a victory for seniors and common sense.''

``The earnings limit is part of a bygone era,'' said the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Sen. William Roth, R-Del. ``It is a by-product of the Great Depression, a time when folks believed an individual should retire completely and make room for others to work.''

Four years ago, Social Security recipients in their late 60s could earn only $11,250 before having to give back a portion of their benefit checks. Congress voted then to gradually raise the earnings ceiling in steps to $30,000 by 2002.

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who is not seeking re-election, also voiced strong support for the bill but expressed concerns that more comprehensive Social Security reform wasn't addressed.

Without either an increase in the current 12.4 percent Social Security tax or a decrease in benefits, the fund will start paying out more money than it receives each year beginning in 2017, shortly after the post-World War II baby boomers begin retiring en masse, experts warn.

``It's not likely the baby boomers will come to Congress and ask for less,'' Kerrey said. ``It's likely they will ask for more.''


EDITOR'S NOTE _ The bill is H.R.5.

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