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 ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFlorida sheriff asks for new leads in disappearance of Carole Baskin's former husband after Netflix's 'Tiger King' drops Ted Cruz jokes about quarantine boredom, 'Tiger King' Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act 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 LeeSenator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' Romney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine 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 MurraySenate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday Senate Democrats propose canceling student loan payments during coronavirus Stimulus plan hinges on McConnell, Schumer repairing toxic relationship 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.