Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments

Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments
© Anna Moneymaker

GOP senators on Thursday attempted to bring a House-passed retirement savings bill to the Senate floor with votes on a limited number of amendments, but the effort was rejected by Democrats.

The Republican effort and Democrats' rejection highlighted how, despite widespread bipartisan support and backing from industry groups, it is still unclear when the retirement bill will be enacted.

The House in May in a nearly unanimous vote approved the bill, known as the SECURE Act. The bill includes a host of provisions aimed at making it easier for businesses to offer retirement plans and for people to save for retirement. It also reverses a provision in the 2017 Republican tax-cut law that inadvertently raised taxes on military survivor benefits paid to children.

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There has also been bipartisan interest in the Senate in passing legislation to boost retirement savings. But several GOP senators have been preventing the House-passed bill from advancing in the Senate without a roll-call vote, seeking an opportunity for their amendments to be considered.

Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyDunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show MORE (R-Pa.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday asked the Senate to unanimously agree to a proposal under which five Republican and five Democratic amendments to the SECURE Act would get a vote. 

The GOP amendments that would have been considered under the agreement included Toomey’s amendment to fix an apparent drafting error in the GOP tax law that is hurting retailers, Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE’s (R-Utah) amendment to remove a provision concerning the pensions of community newspapers, and Cruz’s amendment to allow 529 savings plans to be used for homeschooling expenses. The homeschooling provision had been in the initial version of the SECURE Act but was removed from the legislation before it received a House floor vote.

Toomey said the House bill has some differences from bipartisan retirement legislation that the Senate Finance Committee approved several years ago. He said that senators should be able to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills by allowing votes on the Senate floor on amendments.

“This is the way we legislate, and that’s what I’m suggesting that we do today,” Toomey said on the Senate floor. “To do otherwise would [be] to treat this body as just a rubber-stamp for the House."

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayLong waits for test results spark new COVID-19 fears Overnight Health Care: White House goes public with attacks on Fauci | Newsom orders California to shut down indoor activities, all bar operations | Federal judges block abortion ban laws in Tennessee, Georgia Senate Democrats call for B for vaccine production, distribution in next package MORE (D-Wash.) objected to the Republican request, saying that Senate Democrats want the chamber to pass the House-passed bill as-is, without any amendments.

“We have a few Republican senators who want to sidetrack it with last-minute amendments, including proposals that are not in the interest of working families and will kill any chance this bill has of becoming law,” she said.

Murray asked Toomey to modify his request in order to allow the bill to pass as-is, but Toomey said he wouldn’t modify his request.