Multiemployer pension reform legislation creating a federal loan program for struggling plans was approved Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee in a divisive 25 to 17 vote along party lines.
The bill, H.R. 397, introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., in January has some bipartisan support, but committee Republicans, including ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said the legislation needs more work before they will support its passage. Mr. Brady said there is a "good faith effort" to find common ground.
Also known as the Butch Lewis Act, the bill would establish the Pension Rehabilitation Administration and a related trust fund within the Treasury Department to make loans to multiemployer plans in critical and declining status. The loan program would be financed by the sale of Treasury bonds.
Republican committee members pressed for changes on several issues, including how pension fund trustees and actuaries measure their liabilities and invest their plan assets, further reforms to prevent more insolvent plans and how to protect taxpayers.
Mr. Neal said during markup that he was open to changes but stressed the sense of urgency for an estimated 10% of multiemployer pension plans covering 1.3 million participants headed toward insolvency.
"This is the first time a plan has been put out with specificity. Where it can be improved on, I am open to suggestions. We have a plan this morning and we intend to go forward with it to get to floor by the end of July," Mr. Neal said. Before the committee vote, Mr. Neal led a rally on Capitol Hill attended by scores of multiemployer pension fund participants pushing for the bill's passage.
The legislation was approved June 11 by the House Education and Labor Committee also along party lines, but the Senate has not begun considering it.