Appointments for Medicare, Social Security Trustees at ‘Impasse’
The Senate and President Bush are at an "impasse" over the appointment of public trustees for Social Security and Medicare, resulting in the delay of annual reports on the financial condition of the programs, the New York Times reports.
Since 2000, the public trustees of Medicare and Social Security have been John Palmer, a former dean of the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Thomas Saving, an economist at Texas A&M University. Their four-year term has expired, but under the Social Security Act, they were allowed to complete work on a fifth financial report, which was issued on March 23, 2005.
In November 2005, Bush nominated Palmer and Saving for an additional four-year term, but the Senate has not yet held a confirmation hearing on the nominations. According to the Times, Senate leaders of both parties say they prefer to follow the precedent of public trustees serving no more than one term.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have noted that the primary purpose of having public trustees is to obtain new perspectives.
Former public trustee Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research, said, "It's good to have turnover. The whole idea of a public trustee is to have someone who comes in with fresh eyes and can ask, 'Are there things that could be done better?'"
White House spokesperson Kenneth Lisaius on Monday reiterated Bush's support for Palmer and Saving, saying, "We urge the Senate to act quickly on these nominees. These individuals are well qualified, and there is important work to be done."
Meanwhile, the other Medicare and Social Security trustees -- including four administration officials -- have not scheduled a meeting to review the annual reports on Medicare and Social Security's finances, which were scheduled to be sent to Congress by April 1.
Saving said the Bush administration "needs to know whether we will be confirmed or not" before a meeting can be scheduled.
Palmer said, "It would be a shame to issue the reports without public trustees" (Pear, New York Times, 4/4).