The large transportation funding bill moving through the Senate would end Social Security benefits for 200,000 people who have an outstanding felony arrest warrant—but have never been convicted by a court, or have a warrant for violating probation or parole, according to disability rights advocates tracking the legislation.
The proposal, which surfaced late Tuesday, is at odds with recent Republican statements  on the need to take up meaningful criminal justice reforms such as less harsh sentencing. It also sets a precedent of raiding Social Security funds for unrelated purposes, in this case transferring $2.3 billion for a range of transportation expenses.
The Senate will be voting on the proposal as part of package of amendments midday Wednesday, where 60 votes are needed to add it to the transportation bill. It also takes  several billion from selling oil in the strategic petroleum reserve, Treasury bond interest rates, and U.S. customs fees.
“There are two key issues here,” said T.J. Sutcliffe, income and housing policy director for The Arc, a national disability rights organization. “One is that the Social Security Trust Fund should not be used for unrelated purposes, no matter how important. And the other is Congress is considering cutting off benefits to 200,000 people who rely on Social Security and SSI [disability] benefits, who, in the case of arrest warrants have never been convicted.”
The proposal surfaced in the Senate on Tuesday in a package of amendments  (page 949, Section 52303) being added to a transportation bill. The House’s version of the bill only would have extended funds for several months, while the Senate is looking at a six-year proposal—which becomes a vehicle for many other languishing bills.
Slightly different versions of a bill to punish people with outstanding felony warrants, or warrants for violating probation or parole, were introduced in both chambers. Disability and low-income advocates were quick to criticize the proposals, saying that they will punish people who rely on Social Security with little law enforcement benefit.