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Report Card: How Your Congressman Rates In Helping Older Americans

A new report from the Alliance for Retired Americans rates all members of Congress.

Even though Congress has gotten very little done in the past couple of years, progressive and conservative groups alike continue to rate them for their votes even if a stalemate is preventing any legislation from becoming law. A progressive group has released its scorecard grading members of Congress when it comes to protecting benefits of Social Security and Medicare and other issues that impact older Americans.

This one is from the Alliance for Retired Americans, which has 4.2 million members nationwide, says 154 US House members had perfect scores of 100 in 2013, while 132 had scores of zero. In the Senate, 47 members had perfect scores of 100, while 16 had zeroes.

The group based the grade on ten key votes in the House and Senate and any score of 60 or above is considered a passing mark, says Richard Fiesta, the group’s executive director.

Protecting Medicare and Social Security benefits are at the heart of the group’s voting tally. That includes votes dealing with raising the retirement age of Social Security and cutting benefits; privatizing Medicare; turning Medicaid into a block grant system; implementing voter identification requirements and repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because the group says it would take away benefits for Medicare beneficiaries.

In spite of a Congress that didn’t do very much in terms of passing legislation that became law, retirees and seniors should still be worried that their elected representatives are voting on regarding important senior programs such as Medicare, Social Security, nutrition and issues like that because there were a lot of votes, especially in the House that would radically change a number of those programs,” Fiesta says.

Even though it’s unlikely cuts to those entitlements will happen in 2014, who knows what will happen next year with a new Congress and new issues to vote on, Fiesta says. He calls it disturbing that the House passes a budget that keeps privatizing Medicare and makes cuts in nutrition programs. Regardless of who controls the House or the Senate or what gets passed, Fiesta says it’s important to do a voting record to inform its members and the public.

For a mid-term election, this seems as important as any one we’ve had in the recent past because the Senate in particular, a number of seats are up, and the Democratic margin could narrow and the Republicans could take over the Senate,” Fiesta says. “It’s very important. Like any mid-term election, people who are older tend to vote more consistently so the senior votes will be a higher percentage than it is during presidential years. That’s important to us as a senior-retiree organization.”

Some 80 to 85 percent of its members vote on a regular basis, and Fiesta says in the 2012 presidential election, its member favored Democrats over Republicans by more than a two-to-one margin.

Fiesta says it’s difficult to get older Americans to turn out in even greater numbers since they’re already the leading group when it comes to voting on a consistent basis. It’s more about persuasion than getting people out to vote in greater numbers, he says. The biggest concern in regards to turnout is measures passed by states to require voter identification and restricting the number of hours, days and locations of voting, Fiesta says.

We’re worried about a lot of states that have passed restrictive voting laws because seniors are disproportionately affected,” Fiesta says. “There was a vote in the Senate that would require everyone in the entire country to have a voter ID for federal elections and since many seniors don’t drive anymore or don’t have state-issued voter IDs, that makes it logistically difficult and expensive to go get a voter ID.”

A complete list of the voting records are available at Congressional Voting Record

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