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Conference Report on H.R. 3108, Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 3108, PENSION FUNDING EQUITY ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - April 02, 2004)

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the pension security measure that we have before us is of great urgency for American workers and their employers, and that is because the 30-year Treasury bond that is used to calculate the contributions and obligations for employers for single-employer defined benefit systems are so low that it is causing companies to have to take money that they would invest in their business, that they would invest in more jobs, and put it into their pension plans when, in reality, they do not need to put that money there.

Mr. Speaker, this issue of what we do with defined benefit pension plans is a very difficult path that we must follow. On one hand, we want to protect the obligations and the rights of employees who have been offered these plans and to maintain the retirement security that they have been promised and that they are expecting. At the same time, we need to find a way to make these plans work more smoothly so that employers do not continue to leave these plans in droves, as they have over the last 15 years.

That is why the bill we have before us today was intended to fix this discount rate for single-employer defined benefit plans, and we go from a 30-year Treasury bond to a blend of corporate bond indexes that we believe more appropriately reflects the marketplace in terms of what the discount rate should be as they calculate these obligations.
Yesterday, the House and Senate reached an agreement on a short-term bill that is good for the economy, it is good for American workers and the overall health of the Nation's pension system. I should say temporary. This is a 2-year bill. As the gentleman from New Jersey pointed out, the people who are opposed to this bill do not have funding obligation problems for 5, 6, 7 years; and for those multi-employer plans who do have problems here in the short term, over the next 3 years they will in fact, by and large, get the relief that they need.

The measure that was adopted by the conferees yesterday, I think, is a fair and responsible proposal that meets all of the goals that the conferees started with when we had the conference. The most critical urgent measure is the 30- year Treasury bond fix. It also includes limited relief from deficit reduction contributions for airlines and integrated steel companies, and it targets funding relief for multi-employer pension plans that we believe are most in need. It is also a bill that the President of the United States has agreed he will sign into law.

It is important to note that the interest rate provision really is the sole reason that we are here. Last fall, when we passed this measure on a 397 to 2 vote, everyone voted for this bill except two Members from the other side of the aisle. There was never any discussion about multi-employer relief, and we worked with our Senate and Republican colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Thomas), Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, for his willingness to work closely with us, and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Portman) on our side, along with the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Tiberi), the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Sam Johnson), and the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon), and I guess that would be it on our side; along with the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Andrews) and the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel). We worked together very closely in an open and bipartisan process that I think speaks well of how we should legislate here in the House.

I think we have come an awful long way, and we need to get this bill finished, and we need to get it finished today. These funding obligations for employers are due on April 15, and if this conference report is not passed by the House and Senate and signed into law before then, companies will be making contributions that they really are not required, we believe, to make.

Beyond thanking all of the Members who have worked on this, I want to take a moment to thank all of our staff. As we all know, Members are only as good as the staff we have around us, and we have staff on both sides of the aisle who have done really an awful lot of hard work to get us here today.

From my own staff, I want to thank Paula Nowakowski, Ed Gilroy, Stacey Dion, Jo-Marie St. Martin, David Connolly, Jeff Dobrozsi, Kevin Smith, Greg Maurer, Dave Schnittger, Linda Stevens, Kevin Frank, and Deborah Samantar.
I would also like to thank Shahira Knight and Lisa Schultz from the staff of the gentleman from California (Mr. Thomas); Kathleen Black from the staff of the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Sam Johnson); Kurt Courtney from the staff of the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon); Angela Klemack from the staff of the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Tiberi); and Barbara Pate from the staff of the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Portman) for all her work on this as well.
I would also like to thank John Lawrence, Michelle Varnhagen and Mark Zuckerman from the staff of the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), and Jody Calemine from the staff of the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Andrews), and Mildeen Worrell from the staff of the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel) for an awful lot of really long, long nights in getting us here.

I also want to thank Wade Ballou and Larry Johnston of the House Office of Legislative Counsel. They were under a great deal of pressure yesterday to get this bill drafted so we could get it filed.

Now there are some groups out there opposing the bill we have before us today, but there are also a lot of people supporting the bill we have before us today: the Airline Pilots Association, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the United Auto Workers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Motor Freight Carriers Association, Delta Airlines, the Business Round Table, New York Life, United Parcel Service, Northwest Airlines, Ford Motor Company, Daimler Chrysler, General Motors, and the Financial Services Roundtable.

If you want to see a broad bipartisan nonideological coalition of people supporting the bill, I think the list I have just read does in fact do that.
I would urge all of my colleagues today to reject the motion to commit and to vote "yes" on final passage of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, when H.R. 3108 was brought to the floor, it was brought to the floor and developed in total agreement between myself, the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel). We came to an agreement on what the bill would be, and that is why it was brought up the way it was.

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Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
As we said before, this is a short-term, 2-year temporary effort to help with the Nation's ailing pension system. There is not an issue that is in the bill that any of the conferees disagreed with. There are more things that people would like to add to the bill; but the bill that is before us, everybody agrees to, other than some people have been disappointed because they want more. We all want more, but the gentleman himself said that the multi-employer relief that is not included in the bill is for firms and plans that have a problem 5 or 6 years from now. Trust me, we will be back here within the next 2 years with a broad overhaul of our Nation's pension laws, which is greatly needed. This is a broad bipartisan bill. I think it will be supported in a broad bipartisan way here today. The motion to recommit is nothing more than a way to kill the bill. We do not want that to happen. It would be bad for American workers and their employers.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the motion to recommit and to vote for final passage.

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