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Higgins announces House passage of bill to protect retirement benefits


Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) took to the House floor during debate and spoke in support of the H.R. 397, Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019, also known as the Butch Lewis Act after union leader Butch Lewis, who led efforts to save troubled multiemployer pensions.

The bill, favorably reported to the full House of Representatives from the Ways and Means Committee where Congressman Higgins voted in favor on July 10th, creates a Pension Rehabilitation Administration within the Department of Treasury that would provide loans to shore up endangered multiemployer pension plans so that they can continue paying out benefits. The bill passed by a final vote of 264-169.

In his remarks, Congressman Higgins said: "Today, more than 200 pension plans covering 1.5 million Americans are seriously in danger of failing. Working families from Buffalo to Boston are threatened with their pensions and their retirement savings being ripped away from them."

Higgins added, in part, "the Butch Lewis Act …provides stability and retirement security for millions of humble, hardworking Americans, and I urge its passage."

Congressman Higgins cosponsored H.R. 397 and has supported versions of the bill in previous Congresses. He also expressed his support with remarks during the Ways and Means Committee's markup this month.

The financial crash in 2008 caused severe harm to many multiemployer pensions. Further inaction could force these plans to make dramatic cuts or stop paying out benefits entirely to the retirees who depend on their pensions. Estimates indicate that the additional burden on social programs that would be caused by millions of Americans losing their pensions would far exceed the Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate for the bill, which is $48.5 billion over 10 years.

The Butch Lewis Act has been supported by organizations including AARP, AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, IBEW, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and many more.

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