As part of the budget deal passed by the US Senate Wednesday, a House and Senate joint select committee will be created to work toward solving the nation’s pension crisis.
The committee will be comprised of six senators and six House members, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, who will be appointed by House and Senate leaders. It will have instructions to report a bill by the last week of November, and will be required to hold at least five public meetings.
If at least four members from each party agree on a compromise, the solution the committee produces will be guaranteed an expedited vote on both the House and Senate floors with no amendments, according to US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who secured the creation of the committee as part of the budget compromise.
“Washington bailed out Wall Street, and Wall Street turned around and stole the pensions,” said Brown in a release. “Now Congress has responsibility to protect the pensions workers earned before it is too late. While it is not the immediate solution we hoped for, this committee will force Congress to finally treat the pension crisis with the seriousness and urgency American workers deserve.”
The committee will be required to hold no fewer than five public meetings, including at least one hearing outside of D.C., for the committee to hear directly from retirees, workers, and businesses affected by the pension crisis.
“This is a positive step toward moving legislation forward that will finally address the pension crisis,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in a statement. “This committee must put aside partisan politics and advance legislation as quickly as possible that provides a real solution to this crisis.”
In November, Brown and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced The Butch Lewis Act of 2017, which is intended to deliver a path to fixing the pension crisis by providing the financial support the plans need to avoid insolvency. Speaking on the House floor on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the proposed joint committee could help to move the Butch Lewis Act forward.
“Millions of pensioners—Teamsters, miners, bakery workers, and so many more—are staring down cuts to their hard-earned pensions,” Schumer said. “We Democrats would have liked to take up and pass the Butch Lewis Act. We couldn’t reach an agreement to do that, but now we have a process and potentially the means and motivation to get it done.”