Well, Isn’t That Convenient?

Only three (Senator Hatch is retiring) of the sixteen members on Congress’s Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans are NOT up for reelection this year. Interestingly, all three are Republican Senators. Isn’t that convenient that this group doesn’t have to face an election in the year in which they’ve been tasked with trying to protect and preserve the pension benefits for more than 1,000,000 American workers. Furthermore, we are lead to believe that little support is forthcoming from the Republicans for the Butch Lewis Act, which they perceive to be a bailout instead of the loan program that is at the core of the proposed legislation. I guess they feel that the delay tactics won’t hurt them during their next election cycle.

As we’ve reported before, little appears to be getting done within the JSC toward finding a bipartisan solution to the evolving multiemployer pension crisis.  That Congress is willing to sacrifice the financial well-being of so many hardworking Americans is beyond me.

Members of the Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans: (Members in bold are not up for reelection)

Senate Democrats

  • Sherrod Brown
  • Joe Manchin
  • Heidi Heitkamp
  • Tina Smith

Senate Republicans

  • Orrin Hatch – retiring
  • Lamar Alexander
  • Rob Portman
  • Mike Crapo

House Democrats

  • Richard Neal
  • Bobby Scott
  • Donald Norcross
  • Debbie Dingell

House Republicans

  • Virginia Foxx
  • Phil Roe
  • Vern Buchanan
  • David Schweikert

Previous attempts at tackling the pension crisis have proven to be disastrous. The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) of 2014 was enacted into law as a means to stabilize failing pension systems. In MPRA, “Congress established a new process for multiemployer pension plans to propose a temporary (who are they kidding?) or permanent reduction of pension benefits if a plan is projected to run out of money before paying all promised benefits (US Treasury Department)”. As of today, the Treasury Department has announced that Local 805’s application to modify (slash?) benefits has been accepted marking the 8th “successful” application since the legislation was enacted.

We find it outrageous that legislation designed to protect pensions and pensioners can call for substantial reductions in benefits for retirees who in most cases are no longer able to make up for the drastic income reduction because of age and/or disability. Given that MPRA might be the course chosen for the remaining 100+ multiemployer plans designated as in critical and declining status, it is imperative that the JSC pass the Butch Lewis Act now! There is no more time for delay.

What I truly fear is that this august body will cobble together a piece of legislation that will demand shared sacrifices (including pension benefit reductions) when the retirees have had nothing to do with the poor state of these plans. Worse, I can see them producing MPRA type legislation that will bring harm to the more than 60% of multiemployer plans that are currently in the green zone.

The U.S. government has the financial means to shore up these critically important plans (CBO estimates the cost at $34 billion) that support so many local economies through the receipt of monthly benefit checks. It is penny wise and pounds foolish to play games, especially since they are likely to have to expand the social safety net once these retirees lose their promised benefits.

 

 

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