10 New Democrats to Join Ways & Means

The House committee rosters for the 116th Congress are just about set, as Democratic leaders announced the appointment of new members to the Ways & Means Committee on Jan. 9.

While numerous members – including the newly elected – lobbied the House leadership for the open slots on the committee, the 10 new members have all served more than one term. They will join the 14 existing Democratic members on the committee.

In a press release welcoming the new members, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) stated, “Their input will strengthen our work in the coming years to improve Americans’ retirement security, lower health care costs, cut taxes for middle-class families, and modernize our nation’s infrastructure.”

The new Democrats on Ways & Means are:

  • Gwen Moore (WI)
  • Dan Kildee (MI)
  • Brendan Boyle (PA)
  • Don Beyer (VA)
  • Dwight Evans (PA)
  • Tom Suozzi (NY)
  • Jimmy Panetta (CA)
  • Stephanie Murphy (FL)
  • Brad Schneider (IL)
  • Steven Horsford (NV)

The full Democratic Caucus still must approve the committee memberships.

House Republicans have not yet announced changes to the GOP Ways & Means Committee roster.

Neal Resurrects Multiemployer Pension Bill

Also on Jan. 9, Neal also introduced the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, legislation that seeks to address the problems facing multiemployer pensions. Neal had introduced the measure during the 115th Congress, but it was not acted upon. Reintroduction of the bill came less than a week after the new Congress convened.

“There’s no time to waste in addressing this crisis, and that’s why I’ve chosen to make this the first piece of legislation I introduce as Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee,” Neal stated in a release.

The bill calls for the establishment of the Pension Rehabilitation Administration (PRA), which would be a new agency within the Treasury Department that would be headed by a director appointed by the president to serve a five-year term.

The PRA would issue bonds to finance loans to “critical and declining” status multiemployer pension plans, plans that have suspended benefits and some recently insolvent plans currently receiving assistance from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).The loan amount would be the amount of cash needed to fund the plan’s obligations for the benefits of participants and beneficiaries in pay status at the time the loan is made, as identified in the loan application. The bill would not cut any benefits.

Plans that receive a loan would be required to fund the plan’s obligations to those in pay status in one of the following ways:

  • annuity purchase;
  • Cash Matching or Duration Matching Portfolios; or
  • some other portfolio prescribed by the Treasury Secretary in regulations which has a similar risk profile as Cash Matching and Duration Matching and is equally protective of participants’ and beneficiaries’ interests.

Neal notes that the bill is “not a bailout” and that it would require plans to pay back PRA loans. “The federal government is simply backstopping the risk,” he said. The loan terms would require the plan to make interest payments for 29 years with final interest and principal repayment due in year 30.

The bill enjoys bipartisan support: its original co-sponsors include Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Don Young (R-AK), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), John Katko (R-NY), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

A summary of the bill is available here.

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