DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 08, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 754 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 5006.
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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
I rise in strong support of the amendment by the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller). I think most Americans, Mr. Chairman, would be shocked to know that information about their pension which they own is not available to them at the same time it is available to a government agency.
When the President speaks about Social Security, he is fond of talking about trying to create accounts which are private property of citizens so that we can know what is ours. Pensions are already private property of citizens. When one contributes to a pension fund, or their employer contributes on their behalf to their fund, they own it. But under the present law, one of the more remarkable laws that we have on the books, if the pension fund that one's employer sponsors is in trouble, if it looks like it is going to be unable to pay benefits because its costs are exceeding its revenue, and it looks like the fund might crash so that the Federal Government, under the jurisdiction of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, will have to step in and make the pension fund whole, the law says that one's pension fund has to tell the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation that it is in trouble, and it has to disclose the nature of that trouble. So this government agency gets this information about one's pension fund being in trouble and their check being in jeopardy. Believe it or not, there is a statute that says once this government agency has this information that a person's pension is in trouble, it cannot tell him.
We do not understand that. We think if someone works for a company, and is counting on their pension being delivered, and has contributed to that pension, and has had the employer contribute to that pension, and the pension is in jeopardy so much that the trustees of the fund have to report that trouble to a government agency, we think that the citizens, the pensioners themselves, have a right to know.
That is what the gentleman from California's (Mr. George Miller) amendment does. It prohibits the administration, prohibits the executive branch, from enforcing this secrecy law. One's pension should not be held secret from them if they are an employee or a citizen or a future pensioner. That is what this says.
It is my understanding that, as the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) said, in fact, the administration supports this change, wants this information to be made public.
I do not believe this is a partisan issue. I think that responsible Members on both sides of the aisle would understand that if their pension is in trouble, they ought to have a right to know it, not later after the pension fund has failed and they do not get their check, not after it is too late to do something about it, as was in the case of the Enron and WorldCom employees, but now, as soon as it is timely, so they can do something about it.
So if the Members believe, as I think people on both sides of the aisle do, that someone's pension is their property, and if they believe, as I think people on both sides of the aisle do, that they have the right to know about the dynamics and phenomena happening about one's own property, and if they believe that some government agency has the right to know what is going on with their pension and they should, too, if they believe those things, then they ought to vote for the gentleman from California's (Mr. George Miller) amendment. It is an idea that is supported, to my understanding, by the administration. I hope it would be supported by both sides of the aisle here. I would urge a "yes" vote.
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