Portman-Cardin III Debate Tabled Until After August Break

July 29, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Pension Preservation and Savings Expansion Act will have to wait until after the August congressional recess to learn its fate.

>The United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee adjourned for the break without determining if the July 18 th  markup of HR 1776 in the absence of any Democratic members will stand (See  Portman-Cardin Goes To The House Floor ).   This after a plea from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R – Illinois) asking the bill to be sent back to the committee.   Hastert made it clear he would not intervene in what he dubbed a committee issue, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.

The latest round of congressional conflict all started when committee Democrats complained that they hadn’t had time to review a 91-page substitute bill (they got it shortly before midnight Thursday) – used a parliamentary procedure to require the reading of the bill (they were prevented from having a reading of the 200-page original bill as well).  Then, with the reading underway, all but Representative Pete Stark (D-California) adjourned to a nearby anteroom to craft their strategy.  Even co-sponsor and long-time champion of the measure Representative Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said he didn’t know what was in the chairman’s substitute amendment. 

Meanwhile, back in the main committee hearing, a motion was made to stop the reading of the bill – and with no Democrats in the chamber, a voice vote quickly passed the measure.  Stark, the lone remaining Democrat in the room, objected, but committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-California) ruled that the objection was too late.

The ensuring brouhaha got the Capital police involved, but no arrests were made.  This apparently Republican initiated phone call to the authorities only served to stoke the already red hot embers of Democrat fury, which are now questioning whether the committee action was legitimate, a question that will have to wait until the Committee reconvenes on the flip side of the August break (See  House Offers Sausage-Making Spectacle ).

The bill, sponsored by Representatives Cardin and Rob Portman (R – Ohio), H.R. 1776 – aka Portman-Cardin III – seeks expanded access to tax-favored savings accounts and replacing the 30-year bond rate when calculating pension liabilities.    Additionally, the legislation would provide targeted funding relief for multi-employer plans, and will instruct Treasury to update mortality table assumptions to “more accurately reflect the life expectancy of particular worker populations,” while also correcting “glitches” in the pension funding rules.  The bill would also allow private sector pension plan employee contributions to be made on a pre-tax basis, as they are currently for public-sector plans (See  Unfinished Business, Regulatory Relief Top Portman-Cardin Bill ).