Senate Democrats Turn Backs On America’s Seniors; Reject Bunning Attempt To Suspend Tax On Social Security Benefits

U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today issued the following statement after Senate Democrats rejected by a vote of 39-57 his amendment to the economic stimulus bill that would have suspended for 2009 the tax increase on Social Security benefits that Congress passed in 1993.

"It is a shame that Senate Democrats have chosen to turn their backs on our nation’s seniors by rejecting my amendment today," said Bunning. "I have been a strong advocate for eliminating this tax for many years. It was unfair when it was implemented in 1993 and it is unfair today.

"My amendment would have given seniors a one-year break from this excessive tax and provided them with some much needed relief during these difficult economic times. While I would love to see this tax permanently repealed, suspending it for one year is a start. My proposal would help stimulate the economy immediately by allowing millions of seniors to keep more of their Social Security benefits. With sharp increases in winter fuel costs, increases in health care and food costs, this tax relief could really make a difference to millions of seniors across the country.

"Time and time again Democrats have rejected Republican attempts to improve this bill and provide a true stimulus package to the American people. Rejecting my amendment is just another example of how Democrats have acted in a completely partisan manner to rush a package through Congress that in the end is nothing more than a big government deficit spending bill that will not fix the fiscal problems we are currently facing."

When the Social Security system was created, beneficiaries did not pay federal income tax on benefits. The federal government began taxing 50 percent of Social Security benefits in 1983. Ten years later, in 1993, as part of then-President Clinton’s tax increase bill, Congress imposed an additional tax on 85 percent of Social Security benefits for seniors with incomes above $34,000 for individuals and $44,000 for couples. The Congressional Research Service estimates that at least 12 million seniors pay this tax on 85 percent of their benefits.