Republicans Derail Rail Pension Bill

November 28, 2001 ( - Senate Republicans blocked a measure to allow some railway pension fund assets to be invested on Wall Street, calling it an attempt to "pilfer" pensions and leave taxpayers footing the bill.

Several Republicans, led by Phil Gramm of Texas, mocked the bill, which would let the federally administered railroad pension system reallocate funds invested in Treasury bonds to private securities, according to a Reuters report.

The House of Representatives approved the bipartisan bill in July.

Republicans charged that the proposal represented a collusion of railway and labor interests at the expense of the taxpayer, who would be left with the bill if investments went sour.

“It’s not every day you have a proposal to pilfer $15 billion from a retirement trust fund and have 73 members of the Senate support it,” Gramm told the Chamber, referring to the long list of Senate sponsors.

The bill, which backers claim would cut railroads’ payroll taxes while boosting retiree benefits, is supported by both the railroads and the unions.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) said the railroad bill was essential to the continued vitality of the rail industry and would help widows and widowers of retired railway employees.

However, Senate minority leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) expressed anger that the Democrats were putting the railroad investment plan ahead of proposals for stimulating the economy.

– Fred Schneyer