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Social Security, Boeing and Expense Reimbursement for Lawmakers • Iowa Capital Dispatch
Social Security, Boeing and Expense Reimbursement for Lawmakers • Iowa Capital Dispatch

Iowa state lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would factor inflation into Social Security and call for more rigorous investigations into Boeing’s safety record.

Also this week, new data from the U.S. House of Representatives shows how much food and travel expenses were claimed by members of Iowa’s delegation in 2023.

Read all about it in this week’s DC Dispatch:

Impact of Inflation on Medicare and Social Security

Republican Rep. Zach Nunn of Iowa and Democratic Rep. Don Davis of North Carolina have introduced a bill that would require the comptroller general to study the long-term effects of inflation on Medicare and Social Security.

Nunn said in a press release that the bill, called the Safeguarding Social Security and Medicare Act, is a necessary step to protect people’s retirement savings.

“The citizens of Iowa have worked hard, paid into these programs for years, and planned their futures around these programs. I will do everything in my power to ensure they can continue to count on their benefits,” Nunn said in the press release.

Once the law is passed, the auditor would have one year to complete the study.

Davis said in the press release that retirees who live on a fixed income deserve to have better security for their future.

“To better help Social Security and Medicare recipients who are facing the burden of high costs, we must examine the impact of inflation on retiree benefits,” Davis said in the release. “Our retirees, who have worked their entire lives for financial stability, deserve nothing less.”

Iowa congressman demands reimbursement of expenses

Two of Iowa’s four House members applied for more than $20,000 in 2023 under a program that allows lawmakers to be reimbursed for certain expenses, such as food and lodging, while working in the capital without having to provide receipts.

According to the Washington Post, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks claimed more than $25,000 and Rep. Ashley Hinson claimed more than $20,000. Nunn and Rep. Randy Feenstra did not claim expenses last year.

Both Miller-Meeks and Hinson were above the $18,000 average in refunds for those who used the program, but still among the program’s big spenders, with Miller-Meeks receiving the 74th-most and Hinson receiving the 121st-most.

The Post estimates that members of the U.S. House of Representatives have collected at least $5.8 million through the program.

According to the Post, only four lawmakers were reimbursed more than $40,000. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota received about $40,000, Republican Jim Baird of Indiana claimed about $41,000, Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida was reimbursed about $42,000 and Republican Jack Bergman of Michigan received about $44,000.

Miller-Meeks claimed about $16,000 for lodging and $8,000 for food. Hinson claimed about $20,000 for lodging and $1,000 for food, according to the Post.

Further congressional investigation into Boeing is imminent

Senator Chuck Grassley announced on Friday that the Senate committees’ investigation into Boeing would be followed by further congressional investigations. The committee had described a corporate culture in which production took priority over safety.

The first panel discussions on June 12 featured current and former Boeing employees who recounted how the company ignored obvious safety concerns, dodged investigations and threatened whistleblowers.

“Boeing intentionally kept the design secret from FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) engineers and airline pilots,” said former Boeing engineer Joe Jacobsen at the June 12 panel. “Boeing’s secrecy led to two crashes and 346 deaths.”

The second panel on Tuesday included Boeing CEO David Calhoun, who apologized for the deaths related to the Boeing 737 MAX jet, while senators from both parties sharply criticized the CEO for his actions and those of his company.

“Why didn’t you resign?” Missouri Senator Josh Hawley asked the CEO bluntly on the panel.

Grassley wrote a 12-page letter to Calhoun asking him to answer 18 questions by June 27 about the failures that led to the crashes and whether he would welcome a full safety audit of the company.

“By cutting corners or ignoring glaring problems, Boeing is seriously jeopardizing passenger safety,” Grassley told Fox News Digital.

Grassley sent a similar letter to the FAA questioning the agency’s previous investigations into the company.

“Boeing’s track record and recent reports show that airplane safety was not its primary goal and the FAA did not provide adequate oversight to ensure it,” Grassley wrote.

Some stories from the panel are:

  • A former Boeing employee accused the company of covering up information about a January incident in which a doorstop flew out of an Alaska Airlines plane in midair.
  • Sam Selphour, currently an engineer at Boeing, said he was ignored and threatened with physical violence for raising safety issues. Selphour said that after he raised concerns, a boss told him, “I would have killed anyone who said what you said.”
  • Both former and current employees shaped a corporate culture in which project completion was more important than aircraft safety.
  • Calhoun told Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal that Boeing protects whistleblowers and that they have fired and retaliated against those who have punished whistleblowers. Calhoun said he could not say how many were fired due to privacy reasons, nor could he provide further details.
  • Calhoun said he was proud of every action the company had taken, which left Hawley briefly speechless. He then told the CEO, “It’s a shame you’re still in your job.”

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By Liam