May 11,2016

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Hatch Statement at Finance Committee Hearing on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Nominations

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today issued the following statement at a hearing to consider two Social Security and Medicare Trustees nominations:
       I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s hearing to consider pending nominations.  Before us today are Dr. Charles Blahous and Dr. Robert Reischauer, who have both been nominated to be Members of the Boards of Trustees of the Trust Funds of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance, the Federal Disability Insurance, and the Federal Supplemental Medical Insurance Programs.
       By statute, these various boards consist of the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, HHS, and the Commissioner of Social Security, along with two public trustees.  Drs. Blahous and Reischauer have been nominated by the President to serve once again as public trustees.
       The public trustee positions were created in the 1983 Social Security Amendments, based on a recommendation of the so-called Greenspan Commission, with a requirement that one be from each political party.  Since that time, there have been five sets of confirmed public trustees, with Drs. Blahous and Reischauer having been the last set to have served.
       The trustees have various duties, including a responsibility to review general policies relating to the management of the trust funds and to report to Congress each year on the operation of the trust funds and their current and projected status.
       As the trustees go through the process of developing and releasing a report each year, there are many inputs and many participants.  For example, the Social Security Administration, and its Office of the Chief Actuary in particular, plays a key role in developing assumptions, analytics, and analyses that often end up shaping the information that is provided in the reports.
       In addition, we have had numerous technical panels, composed of actuaries, economists, demographers and others, who review the assumptions and methods used in the trustees’ reports.  This is something that often goes overlooked.
       Since 1999, 50 people have served on these technical panels, weighing in on the Social Security trustee reports and providing both fresh objective eyes on the development of the trustees’ reports as well as a much-needed check on what could otherwise be an outsized role of the Social Security Administration in guiding the contents of the reports.
       President Obama appears to have confidence that the two nominees before us today have fulfilled their duties as public trustees in their previous tenure, and, to date, I have no reason to disagree.
       In general, I believe that the trustee reports to Congress and the American people have been put forward in a nonpartisan fashion, and those who have worked on formulating the reports, including representatives of the administration and our two nominees today, have worked professionally and cooperatively.
       In recent months, some have questioned whether having public trustees serve more than one term is beneficial.  Others have noted the benefits of having continuity in these positions given the many intricacies relating to the various Social Security programs and the management of the trust funds, not to mention the process through which the trustees’ reports are compiled and issued.
       Of course, members of the committee, are, as always, free to reach their own decisions on this matter.
Furthermore, I know that we have an election coming in November.  And, in even-numbered years, some people tend to go to polar extremes whenever anyone anywhere mentions Social Security and/or Medicare in a sentence.
       There are some who, in any context, but particularly during election years, are so unwilling to have a reasonable discussion about these programs that they will go out of their way to silence any alternative viewpoints and stigmatize anyone who has ever expressed a contrary opinion.
       That may make for good politics, but here on the Finance Committee, we’ve always tried to do things a little differently.
       Today, we have before us two highly qualified nominees who were confirmed to these very same positions by the full, Democrat-controlled Senate in 2010 without any opposition.  They have now been resubmitted by a Democratic President to a Republican-controlled Senate that, so far, appears ready and willing to confirm them once again.  I think it would be unfortunate if we now decided to drag either one of them into the silliness of the political campaign season.
       As I indicated earlier, the President has faith in the two nominees before us today and, at this point, I see no compelling reason to disagree.
       With that, I want to once again welcome the nominees to the committee today and thank them for their willingness to continue serving in this important capacity.