Senate votes to eliminate Obama-era retirement rule
A resolution eliminating an Obama-era regulation aimed at boosting retirement accounts for low-income workers is headed to President Trump’s desk after a Senate vote on Thursday.
Senators by a 50-49 margin approved the House-passed resolution, which rolls back a rule meant to encourage a state’s “political subdivisions,” like cities and counties, to create retirement plans for private-sector workers whose employers do not offer their own retirement plans.
The Obama rule would have exempted the city-run accounts from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, a law that outlines rules for workplace savings. Supporters argue the move would make it easier for cities to set up the accounts.
Republicans blasted the regulation, which the Employees Benefits Security Administration rolled out late last year as an extension of a broader proposal that allows states to create the retirement plans.
“Under the guise of helping more people save for the future, it undercut a system of private retirement savings that has served millions of Americans very well for decades,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “The end result would be more government at the expense of the private sector.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Finance Committee, added that the rule imposed “conflicting and burdensome mandates on private-sector businesses.”
Democrats, arguing the country faces a “retirement crisis,” pressed to keep the rule in place. They have stressed that states need more flexibility to help low-income workers save for retirement.
“For too many working people, saving for retirement isn’t automatic or easy. It seems out of reach, but we can’t let that stand,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) from the Senate floor.
Seven states have taken a steps toward creating programs under the Obama-era rule, and Democrats noted that another 23 states are currently considering the program.
The House passed a separate resolution last month that would also nix the Obama-era provision for state governments. That resolution hasn’t received a vote in the Senate.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of trying to hurt working-class Americans, saying since the beginning of the year they “haven’t put up for a vote … a single piece of original legislation to help working families.”
“For years, the Republican-controlled Congress has done nothing to help the 55 million Americans who don’t have an employer-provided retirement plan,” she said.
GOP lawmakers are using the Congressional Review Act to undo regulations implemented late in Obama’s tenure by a simple majority.
— The description of the regulation in this story was corrected on March 31.