Date: December 7, 1995
From: James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs,
National Federation of the Blind
Subject: Earnings Exemption Action Alert (1 of 2)
As you may have heard, the House leadership pulled a "slick" but legal
maneuver on us on Tuesday afternoon. The bill--H. R. 2684--was scheduled
to go before the Rules Committee at 2:30 p.m. Throughout the morning on
Tuesday, Dec. 5, it was beginning to look more and more as though we
might have enough votes to force a vote on our amendment on the floor.
In fact, it was beginning to look as though we had a majority of the
Rules Committee prepared to vote our way for a rule to make a
linkage-retention amendment in order on the floor.
Anyway, whether we had the votes or not, I think that the House
leadership believed we might have the votes. The Rules committee was
going to meet at 2:30, but at shortly after 1:00 they pulled H. R. 2684
off the agenda for the Committee and sent it straight to the floor for a
vote under suspension of the rules. This was an effective and legal
maneuver which by-passed the Rules Committee altogether.
In order to pass a bill under suspension of the rules in the House it
takes a vote of 2/3rds of the members to vote in favor of final passage.
Also, no amendments are in order when a bill goes to the floor under
suspension. Remember, H. R. 2684 is primarily a bill for senior
citizens. Therefore, the leadership was banking on the fact that more
than 2/3rds of the House would vote for the bill on the floor. They were
right. The bill did in fact pass by a vote of 411 to 4. Even our
strongest supporters had to vote for the whole bill as it was,
The upshot of the unexpected swift action is that we have shifted our
focus to the Senate. It is expected that H. R. 2684 will be sent
straight to the floor of the Senate, by-passing the Finance Committee.
The vote on the Senate floor will probably come sometime next week.
At this point we are doing our level best to round up votes in the Senate
for a linkage-retention amendment. At this point I cannot say which
Senator will offer the amendment. Several are looking at it. I can say
that the amendment will certainly be offered.
Therefore, the message is this: All Senators should be contacted and
asked to vote for a linkage-retention amendment for blind persons
amendment. If, with the change of the earnings limit, blind people are
left behind, as in the House-passed bill, Senators should vote against
Remember: This bill in a slightly modified form--S. 1372--came to the
Senate floor on November 2nd. Because of some particular provisions in
the bill it was subject to a point-of-order in the Senate. This meant
that a "super majority" of 60 votes was neeted to vote to wave the budget
act before the bill could be considered. The proponents for S. 1372 got
53 yeas, and they needed 60. There were 42 nays. Of course, this tells
you that Senators, unlike House members, are not necessarily afraid to
vote against the seniors. They will do so especially if they can find
very legitimate budgetary reasons to do so.
This is our hope: The Senate will either vote to include our amendment in
its version of the Senior Citizens Right to Work Act, or the Senate will
fail to pass the entire bill for budgetary reasons. In the latter case
the earnings limit would not be raised, but the linkage would be entact.
That would certainly not be the best outcome, but it is better than
missing the train altogether.
Also, it would not be a bad idea for the seniors to learn that we are all
in this earnings limit boat together. They ought not to try to throw
us over-board. That is precisely what they have done in the House. They
need to learn that the entire boat will sink or we will all survive
together. Throwing the blind over-board has got to become a very
unpopular thing to do. All senators have got to become convinced of that
Everyone should now turn to the Senate with all flags flying. This is
still a battle that we definitely can win!!!
A list of the members of the United States Senate is being sent in a
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