WASHINGTON — Negotiations between the House and the Senate over pension reform legislation shouldn't miss a beat with the appointment of California Republican Howard P. "Buck" McKeon as chairman of the powerful House Education and Workforce Committee, according to Capitol Hill insiders.
Mr. McKeon was appointed Feb. 16 by House Republicans to replace Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who became House majority leader Feb. 2.
"He (Mr. McKeon) is a great guy, and the negotiations should go along smoothly," said Lynn Dudley, vice president and senior counsel for the American Benefits Council, Washington. "Mr. McKeon's staff is very knowledgeable. … He has a great chief of staff in Heath Williams. Mr. Williams gets it and understands the important issues regarding retirement."
A member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce since 1993, Mr. McKeon had largely been known as a champion of education issues. "Buck knew that he had to get up to speed on retirement issues and invited us to brief him on retirement issues," said Ms. Dudley. ABC members met with him on Feb. 23.
"Mr. McKeon has got some very big shoes to fill," said Judy Schub, managing director of the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets, Washington. "Mr. McKeon is very close to Mr. Boehner" on retirement issues, she added. Ms. Schub expects Mr. McKeon will follow in the footsteps of Mr. Boehner, who has been vocal on retirement issues such as offering investment advice to 401(k) plan participants and corporate pension funding issues.
Ed Ferrigno, vice president of Washington affairs for the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, Washington, was enthusiastic about Mr. McKeon's appointment. "There is no doubt that his appointment is huge," said Mr. Ferrigno. "(Messrs.) McKeon and Boehner are good friends and close allies in the House. (Mr.) McKeon is definitely up to the task."
Messrs. McKeon and Boehner generally share the same views on retirement legislation, which is set to be negotiated between the House and the Senate, said James Geoffrey II, a spokesman for Mr. McKeon. "They collaborated in a variety of ways on the draft of the House pension reform bill," said Mr. Geoffrey. "Obviously, you don't know exactly what's going to happen in committee, but they do agree on the thrust of it."
Senate conferees are expected to be announced this week.