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President Clinton Signs Away Depression-Era Penalty on Older Workers

Aired April 7, 2000 - 1:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton today signed away a Depression-era penalty on older folks who want to keep on working and collect their Social Security benefits. No longer will the outside earnings that exceed a certain limit bring an automatic cut in those benefits.

That's no small change, as we hear now from CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, well, Washington is rarely the site of bipartisan harmony on the topic of Social Security. But today, a rare event: the president of United States standing with House and Senate Republicans to sign a law repealing the Social Security earnings limit.

What is that limit? Well, it is a limit of $17,000 for Social Security recipients age 65-70. For every $3 that they learn over that $17,000 limit, Social Security recipients lose $1 in benefits. That will not be the case anymore. And any recipient this year who had been penalized will get a check in the mail in May from the Social Security Administration refunding any of that penalty.

This affects 800,000 Social Security recipients, and about 100,000 spouses and dependents. Its cost over 10 years, $24 billion.

At the signing ceremony, just moments ago here at the White House, the president said: This law will help alleviate tight labor markets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This bill not only means that our seniors will be able to enjoy extra income and personal fulfillment that comes with work without being penalized, it means company with labor shortage will have a fresh supply of experienced workers, increasing our ability to grow without inflation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Now, the president got the ball rolling on this legislation in an interview on CNN.com on February 14. That is when he told Congress to send him a clean bill to repeal this earnings limit. Congress did so. A little bipartisan harmony, that's the good news. The bad news, though, is, the president said in his comments, he thinks that it is for Social Security this year. No major structural overall, but at least some help to those seniors who continue to work -- Lou.

WATERS: Bipartisanship seems to be the key word here, Major. Big crowd around the president, as he signed this bill. I imagine many political rewards are expected to be realized this fall because of this bill.

GARRETT: Oh yes, I imagine the press releases from Capitol Hill are flying fast and furious on this one, everyone announcing that Social Security beneficiaries are getting some help from Washington, from Capitol Hill and from the president.

WATERS: And Major Garrett at the White House today.

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