Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was named Co-Chair of the bipartisan House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions, tasked with solving the pension crisis threatening more than 60,000 Ohioans and 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide. Brown and one Republican co-chair will lead the Committee, which is made up of eight Republicans and eight Democrats from both the House and Senate.
Brown secured the creation of the Committee as part of the overall budget compromise that passed earlier this month. At Brown's urging, the Committee will have instructions to report a bill by the last week of November, and will be required to hold at least five public meetings, including the option of field hearings outside of D.C., so members of Congress can hear directly from retirees, workers and businesses affected by the pension crisis. The solution the Committee produces will be guaranteed an expedited vote in the Senate without amendments.
"Washington bailed out Wall Street, and Wall Street turned around and stole the pensions Ohioans worked for. Now Congress has responsibility to protect the pensions workers earned before it is too late," Brown said. "This Committee will force Congress to finally treat the pension crisis with the seriousness and urgency American workers deserve."
Brown has been fighting for a solution to the pension crisis for years and recently introduced the Butch Lewis Act, named for a retired Ohio Teamster from West Chester, who passed away while fighting against cuts to the retirement he and his fellow workers earned. The creation of the Committee will force both Houses of Congress to consider Brown's proposal and produce a bipartisan solution that can be voted into law.
Numerous Ohio pension plans, including the massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan are currently on the brink of failure. If nothing is done to the plans, they will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.
If the plans are allowed to fail, not only will they no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers would be at risk of having to pay billions because the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) would be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars it cannot pay. PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans.
Details on the Joint-Select Committee to Solve the Pensions Crisis:
The Committee will be made up of 16 members to be appointed by House and Senate leaders. The members will include eight Senators and eight House members, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.
The Committee has instructions to report a bill to solve the pension crisis by the final week of November.
If at least five members from each party agree on a compromise, the solution the Committee produces will be guaranteed an expedited vote on the Senate floor with no amendments.
The Committee will be required to hold at least five public meetings, including the option of field hearings outside of D.C. for the Committee to hear directly from retirees, workers and businesses effected by the pension crisis.