Both Committees of jurisdiction have passed H.R. 397, the so-called Butch Lewis Act, which would establish a government funded Pension Rehabilitation Trust Fund for failing multiemployer pension plans. The bill is now ready for House Floor action, which is expected before the end of the week.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal’s (D-MA) focus has been on creating a program which would allow the U.S. Treasury to issue bonds to finance the loans for a select group of failing pension plans. Ultimately, H.R. 397 is expected to pass in the House, and will likely receive a small minority of Republican votes.
Additionally, certain proposed Republican amendments restricting the aforementioned loan process may not even make it out of the House Rules Committee, which decides which amendments will be allowed on the floor in advance of House floor votes.
SMACNA members can read the full H.R. 397 bill text and requested amendments here.
What does this mean for Composite Plans?
The next move for a “rescue plan” for multiemployer plans going insolvent will take place in the Senate under the leadership of Republicans. Strong bipartisan support will be critical, especially since opposition is expected to what many consider to be a taxpayer bailout.
A final bill in the Senate most likely will look significantly different than the House-passed bill. In a recent statement, Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) office, applauded Chairman Neal’s action in the House but stated that Brown is “continuing to work with Senator Portman (R-OH) toward a bipartisan solution that can pass the Senate.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, will also be heavily involved in any Senate effort regarding failing plans and projected insolvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
SMACNA has previously expressed its hope that House action will be “a catalyst for bipartisan, bicameral solutions which can be enacted before the end of the year.” In a letter (link to attached pdf) to legislators on Capitol Hill, SMACNA has urged Congress to recognize that the overall system is under stress and asked that efforts extend to addressing the concerns of construction industry plan stakeholders.
It is clear from recent lobbying meetings in the Senate that Composite Plans are part of the discussion there. SMACNA plans to continue its ongoing push for Composite Plans, and will also fight to keep premium increases at an affordable level and to make sure structural changes don’t have a negative impact on contributing employers.
Additionally, SMACNA will continue to update members with any additional developments on pension reform.