WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stepped away from the House floor debate on what she called “an abominations of a tax bill” Thursday morning to propose a new provision to the worker-friendly Democratic economic plan called “A Better Deal.”
Pelosi and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and several other Democrats want to ensure that large pension funds have a way to avoid running out of money and not paying pensions to retired workers. According to the Teamsters, at least 870,000 workers stand to lose their pensions if the bill is not passed.
Currently, multi-employer pension plans can reduce the benefits they give to retired workers if the plans can prove they will run out of money by paying out the pensions under a provision of the 2015 budget bill.
The Democrats’ bill would create an office in the Treasury Department oversee the issuance of low-interest 30-year Treasury bonds to ensure that struggling pensions funds remain solvent.
The Butch Lewis Act, named after late Teamsters Local 100 President Butch Lewis, is sponsored by Brown and Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
“Butch worked as a teamster in Ohio and passed away in this battle, working for electricians and mine workers,” Brown said.
Lewis’ wife, Rita, was in tears when she stepped to the podium to thank the lawmakers and call upon all members of Congress to pass the bill before the end of the year.
“If this bill isn’t passed, our nation will suffer an economic tsunami this nation has never seen before,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the bill should not be called “a bailout or a handout,” but a promise that was made to workers.
“No one should ever have to die for a pension that they worked for and they were promised,” Lewis said.
Pelosi sympathized with Lewis and the other workers in the audience, saying, “broken promises mean broken lives.”
But Pelosi also was reminded of the debate going on during the news conference as the audience chanted “No cuts” before she headed back to the House floor to continue to present a unified Democratic front against the GOP tax bill.
The House passed the bill Thursday afternoon, 227-205, with no Democratic votes.