Bravo to Thomas J. Spulak, whose excellent op-ed piece “Remembering the Legacy of Senator Claude Pepper” appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat May 29, the day before Florida Congressman Claude Pepper died nearly 30 years ago.
Although Spulak, President of the Claude Pepper Foundation, tells a lengthy story about Pepper’s impact on the world stage of foreign policy, his fight against poverty, for equal pay and a decent minimum wage, and improving the country’s health care system, it has hardly scratched the surface as regards of his achievements in fighting for the nation’s elders.
More:Commemorating Senator Claude Pepper’s Legacy | opinion
As Pepper’s former staff director, Bob Weiner, explained when he chaired the House Select Committee on Aging (HSCoA), “Pepper’s legacy in Congress, particularly as he got older, was chairing the HSCoA, which advocated the prohibition of mandatory retirement (with Colonel Sanders as a witness), protect nursing homes, expand home health care, and protect Social Security through solvency by 2034.”
Last March, the Leadership Council on Aging Organization sponsored H.Res. 583, Restoring the HSCoA. Two months later, the Social Security Strengthening Coalition also announced its support for the resolution. The two national coalitions represent nearly 400 national and state aging organizations representing conservatively nearly 100 million voters aged 50 and over.
After Pepper’s death, no national advocate has emerged to take the place of the former chair of the House Aging Committee, who served as its chair for six years. As a result, House members and pro-aging advocates are forced to fend off proposals to cut aging programs, Social Security and Medicare at every new session of Congress.
Today, H.Res. 583 has only 50 co-sponsors, six of them from Florida. It’s about time 21 Florida lawmakers joined their six peers to take the stage and become co-sponsors of Cicilline’s resolution.
Aside from the fact that it’s a solid aging policy, the celebration of Pepper’s legacy and legislative impact that have improved the quality of life for the nation’s seniors should be supported.
Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based author specializing in aging, health care and medicine.
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