Lobbyist hoping to save the twice yearly cost of living (COL) raises for federal and military retirees will zero in our four key members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
The committees has been instructed by the Senate to come up with $500 million in budget cuts, and to do it by eliminating one of the two COL raises retirees now get each year.
Under Senate rules, the committee must report out the COL cutback by June 25. It will do so in the form of legislation proposed by President Carter that would give federal-military retirees a single COL each March. Retirees now get inflation catchups in March and September.
Committee chairman Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) will introduce the Carter COL cutback bill as a courtesy to the White House. He is expected to back it, as are Sens. John Glenn (D-Ohio), Charles Percy (R-Ill.) and John C. Danforth (R-Mo.).
Opponents of the COL cutback realize that the bill must be reported out. But they hope that the committee will amend it so that the one-shot COL would be a one-time savings, and that retirees in 1981 would return to getting raises every six months. They also would like the COL cutback to come before the Senate as a single issue -- rather than part of the overall "balanced budget" -- where it could be voted up or down on its merits.
Eight committee members are opposed to the COL cutback. They can be expected to try to amend the Carter bill so that it would be a one-time savings, rather than a permanent change eliminating the September COL raise forever.
Some of the best lobbying in the save-the-COL battle is being done by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. NARFE has several hundred thousand members. All of them stand to lose as much as $1 a day in future benefits if one of the COL raises is taken away permanently.
NARFE experts believe that eight senators on the committee will help report out a COL cutback bill that does the least amount of damage to retirees. The eight "good guys" are Henry Jackson (D-Wash.); Ted Stevens (R-Alaska); Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.); Charles Mathias (R-Md.); James Sasser (D-Tenn.); Richard Pryor (D-Ark.); Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) and Carl Kevin (D-Mich.).
There are four senators on the committee who are listed as "undecided." Their votes could determine whether the COL cutback is made permanent as proposed by the White House, or the September raise is only skipped one year, this year.
Listed as "undecided" are Sens. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.); Sam Nunn (D-Ga.); William S. Cohen (R-Maine) and David Durenburger (R-Minn.).
If you are a registered voter in any of those states it might be a good idea -- if you like the idea of two COL increases -- to write your senator. If he is a "good" guy thank him. If he is likely to back the COL cutback, let him hear from you. If he is listed as undecided, let him know you are out there, watching and waiting to vote.