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D.C. Dispatch: Social Security, Boeing and lawmaker expense repayments

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D.C. Dispatch: Social Security, Boeing and lawmaker expense repayments

Jun 21, 2024 | 3:08 pm ET
By Jack O'Connor
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D.C. Dispatch: Social Security, Boeing and lawmaker expense repayments
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A bill introduced by Rep. Zach Nunn would have the comptroller study the effects of inflation on Medicaid (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Iowa lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would factor inflation into Social Security and called for more 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 D.C. Dispatch:

Inflation’s effect on Medicare and Social Security

Iowa Republican Rep. Zach Nunn and North Carolina Democratic Rep. Don Davis 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, known as the Safeguarding Social Security and Medicare Act, is a necessary step in protecting people’s retirement security.

“Iowans worked hard, paid into these programs for years, and planned 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.

The comptroller would have a year to complete the study upon the passage of the bill.

Davis said in the press release that retirees who live on fixed incomes deserve to have their future better secured.

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

Iowa lawmaker claim expense reimbursements

Two of Iowa’s four House members claimed more than $20,000 in 2023 through a program allowing lawmakers to be reimbursed some expenses like meals and lodging while working in the capital, without having to submit receipts.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks claimed more than $25,000 and Rep. Ashley Hinson claimed more than $20,000, according to data published by The Washington Post. Nunn and Rep. Randy Feenstra did not claim any expenses last year.

Both Miller-Meeks and Hinson were above the average of $18,000 in reimbursements for those who used the program but still below the big spenders of the program. Miller-Meeks received the 74th most and Hinson received the 121st most.

According to estimates by the Post, members of the U.S. House claimed at least $5.8 million with the program.

Only four members were reimbursed more than $40,000, according to the Post. Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar received around $40,000, Indiana Republican Jim Baird claimed around $41,000, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz was reimbursed around $42,000 and Michigan Republican Jack Bergman received around $44,000.

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

More congressional oversight inquiry into Boeing coming soon

Sen. Chuck Grassley announced Friday that more congressional inquiries into Boeing would follow Senate panels investigating the airline company which detailed a company culture that prioritized production over safety.

The first panels on June 12 feature current and former employees of Boeing who told stories about how the company ignored obvious safety concerns, dodged investigations and threatened whistleblowers.

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

The second panel on Tuesday featured Boeing CEO David Calhoun, who apologized for the deaths associated with Boeing 737 MAX Jet, alongside senators from both sides of the aisle blasting the CEO for his and his company’s actions.

“Why haven’t you resigned?” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley bluntly asked the CEO in the panel.

Grassley penned 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 an unrestricted safety audit of the company.

“By cutting corners or turning a blind eye to glaring problems, Boeing puts passengers’ safety at serious risk,” Grassley told Fox News Digital.

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

Boeing’s track record, as well as recent reports, demonstrate that aircraft safety has not been the paramount concern and the FAA has provided insufficient oversight to ensure that it is,” Grassley wrote.

Some stories from the panel include:

  • A former Boeing employee accused the company of covering up information about a January incident where a door plug flew off an Alaska Airlines flight mid-air.
  • Sam Selphour, a current Boeing engineer, said he was ignored and threatened with physical violence for speaking up about safety issues. Selphour said after raising concerns, one boss told him “I would have killed someone who said what you said.”
  • Both past and present employees laid out a company culture that cared more about completing projects than the safety of the airplanes.
  • Calhoun told Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal that Boeing does protect whistleblowers and that they have fired and retaliated against those who have punished whistleblowers. Calhoun said he couldn’t say how many were fired or give any more specifics over privacy concerns.
  • Calhoun said he was proud of every action the company has taken, which left Hawley briefly speechless. He then told the CEO “It’s a travesty you’re still in your job.”