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Senate Proceeding 04-30-08 on Apr 30th, 2008 :: 0:17:20 to 0:42:51
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John Rockefeller

0:09:40 to 0:17:20( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: John Rockefeller

John Rockefeller

0:17:03 to 0:17:20( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: i thank the presiding officer and yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i take a view opposite what was just spoken by senator rockefeller on the amendment that

Chuck Grassley

0:17:20 to 0:17:38( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: is before the senate, the durbin amendment, number one, because of a very carefully crafted compromise that was work the ed out when the pension reform bill was passed; and, number two, the purpose

Chuck Grassley

0:17:20 to 0:42:51( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Chuck Grassley

Chuck Grassley

0:17:38 to 0:17:56( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of that legislation was to protect the pensions of the workers of the corporations of america, including the workers that work worked "workfirst" for our airlines. and what -- that work for our airlines.

Chuck Grassley

0:17:56 to 0:18:17( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: and what we're trying to do is stay within the realm of that compromise and the protection of workers' pensions, and this effort detracts from it. and so i'm trying to make sure that workers' pensions are

Chuck Grassley

0:18:17 to 0:18:42( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: protected. so i am going to address my colleagues to be against the durbin-hutchison amendment. the amendment before us seeks to keep in place a policy that is wrong from a pension policy standpoint.

Chuck Grassley

0:18:42 to 0:18:57( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: the amendment also would preserve a process filed against two committees with jurisdiction jurisdiction. these two committees worked arm in arm for all of 2006 to get a pension reform bill together that

Chuck Grassley

0:18:57 to 0:19:14( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: would protect workers' pensions. if the proponents of this amendment succeed in their effort, it will taint the legislative process with respect to one of the most important policy challenges before congress,

Chuck Grassley

0:19:14 to 0:19:28( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: and this is strengthen strengthening retirement security. the provision the proponents seek to strike is not only justified from a policy perspective, but the way in which the original provision of the

Chuck Grassley

0:19:28 to 0:19:44( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: pension protection act was modified should raise the eyebrows of some of my senate colleagues. i would first like to walk my senate colleagues through the year-long conference negotiation negotiations

Chuck Grassley

0:19:44 to 0:20:01( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of the pension act, which occurred less than two years ago. but let me first remind my colleagues that the underlying intent of the pension act is to require define ed benefit plan sponsors to

Chuck Grassley

0:20:01 to 0:20:20( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: fully fund their pension plans -- in other words, keep their promise to their employees. in nontechnical terms, the pension act makes sure that plan sponsors are not digging a deeper hole by requiring

Chuck Grassley

0:20:20 to 0:20:37( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: plans to pay off their unfunded liability ies. the pension act requires define ed benefit plan sponsors to make contributions, one, to cover benefits accrued in the current year and, two to pay off any un

Chuck Grassley

0:20:37 to 0:20:51( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: unfunded pension liability ies or past liability ies over a seven- seven-year period of time. now, a lot of people feel that we were not doing justice to the workers of america by giving these companies

Chuck Grassley

0:20:51 to 0:21:07( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: seven years to pay off these past liability ies. but at least we have a plan in place that two committees of this senate worked on that was a compromise that would bring us to the point where even

Chuck Grassley

0:21:07 to 0:21:23( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: after seven years workers' pensions would be protected. now, there's an interest rate issue with a lot of pensions. the interest rate use ed to determine these past liability ies is based upon the yield

Chuck Grassley

0:21:23 to 0:21:38( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: curve of high-quality corporate bond rate rates. currently, the corporate bond yield curve rate is approximately 6%. the pension act provided two exceptions to this general rule. the exceptions

Chuck Grassley

0:21:38 to 0:22:03( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: were specifically provided for certain commercial airline carriers that may have had difficulty meeting the general requirements within the bill. in other words, we were taking into consideration two

Chuck Grassley

0:22:03 to 0:22:18( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: years ago the very critical and -- how would you say it? -- very un unpredictable future financially of airlines, and that's something that was legitimate at the time. so there were exceptions for these

Chuck Grassley

0:22:18 to 0:22:37( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: commercial airline carriers. under the first exception, carriers that froze their pension plans were permitted to pay off any past pension liability ies over 17 years. now, that's instead of seven

Chuck Grassley

0:22:37 to 0:22:54( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: years. and use in the process an 8.85% interest rate to calculate past liability ies, and that would be instead of current law's 6% rate rate. under the second exception, carriers that did not freeze

Chuck Grassley

0:22:54 to 0:23:12( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: their pension plans were permit permitted to pay off liability ies over 10 years instead of 17 years, if they chose the other curve -- other course, and use the current 6% rate instead of the 8.85%

Chuck Grassley

0:23:12 to 0:23:28( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: interest rate. during the pension act negotiations, those airline carriers freezing their plans were permitted to take advantage of the first exception. we were aware at that time that these carriers

Chuck Grassley

0:23:28 to 0:23:47( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: pledged to make new 401(k) contributions on behalf of current and new employees in their union negotiations. those airline carriers that did not freeze their plans did not need to make the same pledge

Chuck Grassley

0:23:47 to 0:24:04( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: for a 401(k)-type retirement because these carriers continue their pension plans. these workers for these carriers continued to accrue benefits under the pension plan. now, the opponents of section 80

Chuck Grassley

0:24:04 to 0:24:24( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: 808 don't understand or maybe they choose to ignore that this was a carefully crafted compromise which was intended to place workers of each of these carriers in a similar position from a retirement

Chuck Grassley

0:24:24 to 0:24:43( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: perspective. workers of carriers that did not freeze their plans continued to accrue their usual pension benefits. workers of carriers that froze their plans received retirement benefits benefits under

Chuck Grassley

0:24:43 to 0:25:03( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: 401(k) plans. under these a each approach, the carriers remain obligate ed to pay their retirement benefits that accrue in the current year. this was a pro-worker, pro- pro-participant approach

Chuck Grassley

0:25:03 to 0:25:21( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: that recognize ed the financial dis distress that airline the airline industry ies experience the ed. it also recognize ed the difference in the carriers that froze their plans and the financial health

Chuck Grassley

0:25:21 to 0:25:39( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of carriers who did not freeze their retirement plans. the amendment's proponents are now saying that they want the same set of rules that were offered to carriers that froze their plans. so, you see, what's

Chuck Grassley

0:25:39 to 0:25:49( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: on the books that we in the finance committee are trying to correct in this legislation is that we gave maximum flexibility to airlines to choose one plan or another, the one that fit, whether they wanted

Chuck Grassley

0:25:49 to 0:26:04( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: to freeze their pension plans or not freeze their pension plans, and not freezing their pension plans, substitute substituting -- or, over here if they froze their pension plans and substituting

Chuck Grassley

0:26:04 to 0:26:19( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: a 401(k) for future employees. maximum flexibility because these union agreements are so much different among the various airlines and the financial conditions of the airlines are very much different.

Chuck Grassley

0:26:19 to 0:26:37( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: we wanted to give choice for flexibility for the financial management of the corporations themselves to keep their promise to their workers, and we wanted to keep our promise that congress has made under our

Chuck Grassley

0:26:37 to 0:26:53( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: laws that workers' retirement ought to be protected. so maximum flexibility -- okay, then later on -- i mean, everybody had agreed to this. and then later on people want to change the rules in the

Chuck Grassley

0:26:53 to 0:27:05( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: middle of the game to benefit one airline or another over another airline. so these proponents of the present law, the present distraction from our compromise that was made two years ago -- less than two

Chuck Grassley

0:27:05 to 0:27:22( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: years ago will tell you that just before passage of the pension act an agreement was reached with senate leadership that the senate would take the first available opportunity in the next congress

Chuck Grassley

0:27:22 to 0:27:41( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: to offer the same set of rules to carriers who did not freeze their pension plans. well, if that's true, then why did we worry and try to make this compromise over a period of several months during 2006?

Chuck Grassley

0:27:41 to 0:27:56( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: we wouldn't have had to spend the fipple to do time to do that. on january 4, 2007, senator hutchison and senator cornyn introduced a bill that loosened up the rules nor that's carriers who did not

Chuck Grassley

0:27:56 to 0:28:19( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: freeze their plans. it reduce reduced the interest rate to 8.25%, which in their view is close er to the 8.85% rate given to frozen plans. the bill was referred to the health, education, labor, and

Chuck Grassley

0:28:19 to 0:28:37( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: pension committees. i don't recall senator kennedy considering the bill in the normal course of business. i know that i did not consider the bill in the finance committee. language that was identical to

Chuck Grassley

0:28:37 to 0:28:52( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: the hutchison-cornyn was slipped into the war supplemental conference agreement. this action was taken without -- without -- consideration by the two committees of jurisdictionn over pensions, he very same

Chuck Grassley

0:28:52 to 0:29:09( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: two committees that worked for several months during the year 2006 to workut this carefully crafted compromise that took into consideration the financial conditions of the various airports -- i mean, of the

0:29:09 to 0:29:30( Edit History Discussion )

various airlines, the desire of some airlines to freeze their pensions and substitute 401(k)'s and those airlines that wanted to keep their pension system going as was. without any consideration to the people

Chuck Grassley

0:29:30 to 0:29:45( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: that had worked on this for so long. and it was slipped into conference agreement of an appropriation bill. now, isn't that process that we here in the senate are trying to put an end to? regardless, no

Chuck Grassley

0:29:45 to 0:30:03( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: promises were broken. the promise to make the rules the same was taken up in this congress.| specifically, the senate finance committee included the provision that we're debating today in the modification

Chuck Grassley

0:30:03 to 0:30:20( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of the chairman's mark of the federal aviation -- aviation administration authorization bill. the mark was considered by the full senate finance committee in september last year. the full committee overwhelmingly

Chuck Grassley

0:30:20 to 0:30:38( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: reported that provision and favorably reported it out of committee. so proponents of this amendment cannot stand on the senate floor and cannot in good conscience argue that promises made to them were

Chuck Grassley

0:30:38 to 0:30:54( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: not kept. let me remind my colleagues that we here in the senate have a committee process which enables members -- which enables members to debate and dispense of issues in an orderly process.

Chuck Grassley

0:30:54 to 0:31:06( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: without this orderly process, the democratic process our founding fathers gave us breaks down. well, i didn't serve as chairman and now ranking member of the senate finance committee to let down an

Chuck Grassley

0:31:06 to 0:31:27( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: orderly and democratic process, particularly considering the months of compromise between the house and the senate it took to work out what present -- what that pension bill was all about. for my senate

Chuck Grassley

0:31:27 to 0:31:36( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: colleagues, i suggest that a provision that was not considered during the normal course of the committee process is making good on a promise that was made to them that i think that this is not acceptable.

Chuck Grassley

0:31:36 to 0:31:51( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: and for my senate colleagues to ultimately contend that the promises that were made to them were not kept, i ask why they did not speak up during the full and open deliberation that occurred in the finance

Chuck Grassley

0:31:51 to 0:32:04( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: committee in september. why are they now opposing a provision that was out there clear light of day for over seven months? and if you had problems with the provisions, not speak to us about them? or

Chuck Grassley

0:32:04 to 0:32:18( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: is it that the airline care quloars oppose this provision final -- carriers who oppose this provision finally woke up? i don't know. did they wake up that their blatant end-run around congress -- the

Chuck Grassley

0:32:18 to 0:32:33( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: committee process would not go unnoticed and that they wanted to find some way to undo the careful compromise of 2006? i'm skeptical, of course, skeptical is an understatement but let me turn to the

Chuck Grassley

0:32:33 to 0:32:48( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: policy of the provision in the finance committee bill. as we have considered, opponents that have provision successfully increased the interest rate for nonfrozen plans to 8.25%. they say that the

Chuck Grassley

0:32:48 to 0:33:03( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: 8.25% rate levels the playing field and i will admit and agree with them. but it only levels the playing field in the context of calculating past liabilities. so i agree that it is equitable to allow all the

Chuck Grassley

0:33:03 to 0:33:15( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: carriers to use the more favorable interest rate to calculate past liabilities. but it is not equitable to allow carriers that did not freeze their plans to underfund benefits earned in the dispiewrt

Chuck Grassley

0:33:15 to 0:33:32( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: maybe get us back -- future and maybe get us back to the position where we are still in somewhat even regardless of the bill -- or the law that's now on the books. and this is what is going to happen

Chuck Grassley

0:33:32 to 0:33:49( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: if we don't do something about it right now. so i would like to correct the manner in which my distinguished colleague from illinois -- and he's here on the floor -- refers to the now infamous 8.2%

Chuck Grassley

0:33:49 to 0:34:05( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: versus the 8.85%. these are not earnings rates. the rates are not used to determine the value of plan assets. instead, the rates are discount rates that actuaries use to determine the present value

Chuck Grassley

0:34:05 to 0:34:21( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of pension liabilities. basically, the rates are used to determine how much a company has to contribute today to make good on the promise ed pension payments that would be due when an employee retires.

Chuck Grassley

0:34:21 to 0:34:38( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: this is an important distinction distinction, because when a company uses a higher rate -- interest to project the present value, the company is able to understate, or i would use the word mask the

Chuck Grassley

0:34:38 to 0:34:53( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: promised pension payments. this understatement allows the company to contribute less money to the plan and -- and less money to the plan is an important distinction. because we're talking about protecting

Chuck Grassley

0:34:53 to 0:35:13( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: workers and their pension rights. why would a worker support a policy that places the full value of their promised pension payments in jeopardy? my colleagues from illinois contends that the workers

Chuck Grassley

0:35:13 to 0:35:26( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: of the carriers in question support this practice and, of course the durbin-hutchison amendment. most workers i know ask for bigger payments or at least want to make sure that they are secure in retirement.

Chuck Grassley

0:35:26 to 0:35:40( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: it's usually management that wants to short the worker. that's why we get into the trouble we're in and why the pension re -- act of 2006 was necessary. but let me get back to what war supplemental

Chuck Grassley

0:35:40 to 0:35:56( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: actually accomplished. carriers that are currently using the 8.25% interest rate are now permitted, one, to mask the pension plan's underfunded -- unfunded liabilities; and, two, contribute less money

Chuck Grassley

0:35:56 to 0:36:09( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: to a pension plan. the greater extent to which a pension plan is underfunded, the greater the risks to the pension benefit guaranty corporation, the federal insurer of the pension plans. and then

Chuck Grassley

0:36:09 to 0:36:24( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: obviously if that comes up short, the taxpayers are picking up the bill. b opponents of the finance committee provision argue that the most important risk factor for the pension benefit guaranty

Chuck Grassley

0:36:24 to 0:36:43( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: corporation is the financial health of a plan sponsor. now, this is not entirely true. whether a plan is underfunded is an equally important risk factor factor. specifically, if the company goes

Chuck Grassley

0:36:43 to 0:36:58( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: into bankruptcy you -- bankruptcy and pushes the pension liabilities into the pbgc, guess who is holding the bag for those unfunded liabilities? well, it's not the pbgc -- or, it is the pbgc. and in most extreme

Chuck Grassley

0:36:58 to 0:37:14( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: cases, then the taxpayers might be left holding the bag. so my opponents can't tell half of the story. yes, the financial health of the plan sponsor is important but so is the funding status of the plan, and

Chuck Grassley

0:37:14 to 0:37:31( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: what we have here is an issue of underfunding. i told you that from an actuarial perspective, a higher interest rate means lower plan liabilities. when a plan sponsor uses a higher interest rate to

Chuck Grassley

0:37:31 to 0:37:47( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: determine its liabilities, the sponsor is effectively masking the plan's liabilities. in other words, the plan liabilities are artificially understated. i want to emphasize the word "artificial," because

Chuck Grassley

0:37:47 to 0:38:10( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: we have here is a case where the carriers who oppose the finance committee provision are trying to te advantage of a special funding rule based on an artificial funding status. and i went to great

Chuck Grassley

0:38:10 to 0:38:21( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: lengths to say to my colleagues during 2006 how we tried to take into consideration between committees considerations of the different financial conditions of the various air carriers and to give them

Chuck Grassley

0:38:21 to 0:38:36( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: some choice. specifically, if a plan sponsor used the normal 6% rate, is 100% funded, the plan response certificate only required to contribute money -- plan sponsor is only required to contribute

Chuck Grassley

0:38:36 to 0:38:49( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: money to cover the plan's current year costs. if the plan is, say, 115% funded funded, the plan sponsor may use the excess to cover the current year's liabilities. in some cases, the plan sponsor

Chuck Grassley

0:38:49 to 0:39:09( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: won't have to contribute any money because the excess would cover the current year's costs. carriers that are using the 8.25% are contending that because their plan is 116% funded, they don't have

Chuck Grassley

0:39:09 to 0:39:26( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: to make the current year contribution. the problem here is that the 116% funding status is artificial 6789 it is artificial because the 8.25% rate -- artificial. it is artificial because the 8.25

Chuck Grassley

0:39:26 to 0:39:38( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: rate artificially masks the underfunding. so i ask my colleagues: should a plan that is underfunded be available to a rule that is only available to flans are adequately funded? or put it another

Chuck Grassley

0:39:38 to 0:39:56( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: way. this is fuzzy math. it's fuzzy in a way that puts the plan at risk. should plans that a artificially funded be allowed to skip making their current year's contributions? and in that case, aren't

Chuck Grassley

0:39:56 to 0:40:14( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: they just digging the hole deeper? well, the finance committee provision says if these carriers use the 8.25% rate which results in an artificial funding level, these carriers cannot skip current year's contributions.

Chuck Grassley

0:40:14 to 0:40:33( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: so the finance committee provision makes good on the promise that was made to senators during the year 2006. this -- that is, that we are allowing carriers that did not freeze their plans to use

Chuck Grassley

0:40:33 to 0:40:49( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: a more favorable interest rate to determine their past liabilities. the same deal that was given to frozen plans. what we are also saying, however, is that if you are using the more favorable rate, you have

Chuck Grassley

0:40:49 to 0:41:06( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: to contribute the current year's costs costs. that's the grand compromise of 2006. again, the same deal was given to the other set of airlines and/or other corporations to freeze their plan. to do otherwise

Chuck Grassley

0:41:06 to 0:41:15( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: would, one, adversely affect active workers. and, two, allow these carriers to dig a deeper hole by allowing pension liabilities to continue to grow 6789 moreover, taxpayers can end up being on the

Chuck Grassley

0:41:15 to 0:41:26( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: hook -- grow. moreover, taxpayers can end up being on the hook for these unfunded liabilities. madam president, it all comes down to this, bottom line, workers, retirees and taxpayers are in better

Chuck Grassley

0:41:26 to 0:41:45( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: tape? there is more money to the retirement plans -- better shape if there is more money in the retirement plans. workers, retirees, and taxpayers are in worse shape if there is less money in the retirement

Chuck Grassley

0:41:45 to 0:41:57( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: plan. management wins if the company puts less money into the plan and workers, retirees and taxpayers lose. a vote for this amendment is a vote to put less money in the retirement plan. a vote against

Chuck Grassley

0:41:57 to 0:42:10( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: this amendment is a vote to put more money in retirement -- let me make sure you i saidthat right. a vote for the amendment is a vote to put less money in the retirement plan. a vote against the

Chuck Grassley

0:42:10 to 0:42:20( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: amendment is a vote to put more money into the retirement plan. so if you vote for the amendment amendment, you're putting workers, retirees, and you ought to be concerned about taxpayers most of

Chuck Grassley

0:42:20 to 0:42:31( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: all at risk. i hope my colleagues join me in opposing this amendment, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, i ask unanimous

Chuck Grassley

0:42:31 to 0:42:41( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar 722, h.r. 5715. the presiding officer: is there -- the clerk report. the clerk: calendar number 722, h.r. 5715, an act to ensure continued

Chuck Grassley

0:42:41 to 0:42:51( Edit History Discussion )

Chuck Grassley: availability of access to the federal student loan program for students and families. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding? without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: mr. president, i mask

Richard Durbin

0:42:51 to 0:43:01( Edit History Discussion )

Richard Durbin: unanimous consent a kennedy-enzi amendment which is at the desk be agreed to, bill as amended be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening

Richard Durbin

0:42:51 to 0:51:27( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Richard Durbin

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