Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Kaptur, Nolan and Bustos Lead Charge to Protect Pensions from Back Room, Last Minute Budget Moves

Dec 6, 2016
Press Release

Today, U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Rick Nolan and Cheri Bustos were joined by 38 of their colleagues in urging House Leadership to reject any proposal attacking the hard-earned pension benefits of retirees and workers added as a rider to any end-of-year legislation.

Following the letter’s release, Congresswoman Kaptur had the following to say, “Without an open, thorough discussion on Chairman Kline’s composite pension proposal, we risk another round of serious cuts to worker and retirees earned pensions. This election highlighted how working-class Americans feel defenseless to Washington’s backroom deal-making, which consistently leaves them shouldering the burden of bad policy decisions. America’s workers deserve more from their elected representatives and it starts with the ability to hold Members accountable for votes. Pension reform must pass through the House in Regular Order, not as a rider to must pass legislation.”  

“Passing a proposal of this nature in the dead-of-night would be disastrous for working people across the Nation,” Nolan said. “We cannot allow a repeat of the 2014 funding bill, when the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) was added to the ‘Cromnibus’ at the last minute without an independent vote. And we owe it to the American people to follow the process of Regular Order, just as Speaker Ryan promised after being elected Speaker.”

“The American people are tired of Washington back-room deals that stack the deck for special interests against working families,” Bustos said. “We owe the people we serve a transparent process and the opportunity to review any proposal submitted before Congress. Rushing a serious proposal like this through the legislative process without a proper debate would be a disservice to the hard-working men and women that have earned these benefits throughout their career.”

The lawmakers urged House Leadership to reject House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline’s draft composite pension proposal unless further legislative debate and analysis occurs. The proposal would allow healthy multiemployer plans with secure and adequate benefits to transition to two plans: a “legacy plan” that allows employers to make smaller yearly contributions than the original plan and a new “composite plan” that makes no binding promises to workers and retirees.

The full text of the letter is available below:

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Minority Whip
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Whip Hoyer,

We write to express grave concern over the possible inclusion of pension reform legislation to “modernize multiemployer pensions” in any must-pass, end-of-year legislative vehicle, particularly a budgetary continuing resolution. Just two years ago, at the last minute and behind closed doors, a similar negotiation unfolded and resulted in the inclusion of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) in the 2014 Cromnibus. We are deeply troubled to hear this may happen again with pension legislation that would have significant consequences to American workers and retirees.

In September 2016, House Education & Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline revealed a discussion draft and held one hearing on a “Discussion Draft to Modernize Multiemployer Pensions,” which would change funding rules for pension plans to allow the creation of “composite” multiemployer plans. The composite plans would combine elements of defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans. Although we commend Chairman Kline for his commitment and desire to address the looming challenges of retirement security in America, to include this proposal in must-pass legislation without a formal introduction, in addition to no Committee markup, floor debate, or independent floor vote, is unacceptable. On such critical life issues as retirement and financial security, we seek to be involved in the creation of the legislative proposal and engage in a transparent debate through regular process. 

We are in full agreement that Congress must address the multiemployer retirement savings crisis and that tough choices will likely be required. However, we cannot blindly accept a proposal that has been through almost zero regular order and which permits employers and pension funds to transition to new plans that may put existing “legacy” plans that already face funding challenges at greater risk.

Although Chairman Kline assures his proposal is good for employers, workers, retirees, and taxpayers, the current circumstances multiemployer pension funds in America face is a zero-sum situation and a result of circumstances beyond the control of workers and retirees. Again, as we saw with MPRA, retirees are asked to bear the brunt of this policy’s proposals, with almost no input. Concerns[1] have already arisen that his new proposal provides inadequate funding for new composite plans and will weaken the funding base for existing plans. The proposal will not only put retirees’ pensions at risk, but will reduce premium payments and add significant new liabilities to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s already underfunded multiemployer insurance program.

Following the unacceptable inclusion of MPRA in the 2014 Cromnibus deal, we continue to hear extensively from constituent retirees whose retirement security is at stake. These hardworking Americans deserve a fair, thorough and open legislative process where their interests are weighed and heard. Given the limited time since Chairman Kline unveiled his proposal and its subsequent limited review and process, we firmly assert that its inclusion in any must-pass legislation is intolerable.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.