In September 2020, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report that projected the exhaustion dates of major federal trust funds. Exhaustion of a trust fund means that all reserves have been depleted, and there are more expenditures from the trust fund than revenue coming into it. According to the report, the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2031, the Social Security Disability Insurance will be exhausted in 2026, the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2024, and the Highway Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2021.
Programs like Medicare and Social Security are considered to be part of mandatory spending. These programs are baked in the budgetary cake because outlays are based on the number of beneficiaries and not subject to congressional appropriation. Mandatory spending is the largest aspect of federal outlays, representing 61.5 percent of all federal spending in FY 2019. In FY 2030, mandatory spending is projected to represent nearly 66 percent of all federal outlays.
Congress needs to take steps to address the severe and looming crises that the fiscal instability of major federal trust funds represents. The TRUST Act would give Congress the ability to address these crises in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion by creating 12-member committees to develop and make recommendations to bring major federal trust funds into fiscal solvency.
Committees would be tasked with avoiding depletion of major federal trust funds, establishing solvency over a 75-year actuarial period, and simplifying and making improvements to programs. Committees will be composed of three members chosen by the Senate Majority Leader, three members chosen by the Senate Minority Leader, three members chosen by the Speaker of the House, and three members chosen by the House Minority Leader. One co-chair will be chosen by congressional leadership of the same party of the President and the other co-chair will be chosen by congressional leadership of the party, not in control of the White House.
Recommendations in the legislative form must be approved by a majority of a committee’s membership. Consideration of legislation approved by a committee is expedited under the TRUST Act. However, the 60-vote threshold needed to limit debate under the rules of the Senate would still apply.
The TRUST Act is not a panacea for growing federal spending. Each member of Congress must take these problems seriously and address them in a way that encourages economic growth and prosperity for every American. The TRUST Act is a good starting point to begin to review the fiscally unsustainable nature of the federal government and work toward addressing the problem.
For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and representative and ask them to cosponsor the TRUST Act, S. 1295 and H.R. 2575.