US - The House of Representatives yesterday approved a Bill for comprehensive pension reform, but George Miller (D-CA) rejected claims it received significant bipartisan support after Republicans "refused to allow a Democratic alternative to be brought to vote."
The house passed the Pension Protection Act with a vote of 294-132, which John Boehner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Education & Workforce Committee, said would “protect the interests of workers, retirees and taxpayers by shoring up the health of the traditional DB system.”
DB plans are now underfunded by an estimated US$450bn.
Boehner also said the Bill had received “significant bipartisan support,” and cited a number of Democrats who backed the bill, including John Dingell (D-MI), the most senior member of the house, said Boehner. In total, 70 Democrats supported the Bill, he said. “I hope this bipartisan co-operation continues as we work with the Senate to craft a final measure to send to President Bush.”
But Miller said Republicans had refused to allow a Democratic alternative Bill to be brought for a vote before the Pension Protection Act was voted on. As a result, the House only had the opportunity to vote on the Republican bill and on a motion to recommit the Bill back to committee, said Miller. Republican leaders are not interested in open debate, good public policy, or even democracy, he said.
Miller has been widely critically of the Bill, which he said would actually worsen the pension crisis it was designed to solve.
After the vote yesterday, Miller described the bill as an assault on Americans’ retirement benefits. “If this bill becomes law, it will be truer than ever that Social Security really is the last sure thing for retired Americans.”
“This bill makes pensions less secure,” he said
The Pension Protection Act includes tough new funding requirements designed to ensure employers adequately fund their pension plans.
It would require companies to meet a 100% funding target over a seven-year period. It would also establish a new interest rate measure by which companies could more accurately calculate their liabilities. The Act also stipulated that plans that are less than 80% funded could not use credit balances to avoid minimum required contributions.
This week's edition of Professional Pensions is out now.
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