The Association of U S West Retirees



Pension legislation bogged down by amendments
By Marilyn Geewax, Cox News Service
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Friday, July 21, 2006

WASHINGTON - Congress ended its work week Thursday without completing the pension legislation that bankrupt airlines say they must have to avoid defaulting on their pension plans, perhaps within weeks.  "We don't have a commitment or an agreement yet, but I think we're very close to having one," House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., primary sponsor of the airline provision, said he is "still very optimistic and will remain in Washington throughout the weekend" to continue putting finishing touches on the bill.

For days, airline executives and hundreds of workers have been lobbying on Capitol Hill, begging lawmakers to complete the legislation that contains special relief for bankrupt air carriers with underfunded pension plans.  Both Delta Air Lines and Eagan-based Northwest Airlines have said they might default on the pension plans of a combined 150,000 workers and retirees if Congress fails to provide funding relief by August.

Key lawmakers say the bill will be finalized before Congress starts its August recess.  But many also had said the legislation would be done by the Easter break, then Memorial Day, then July 4th.

The bill's momentum on Thursday was slowed by efforts to attach other, unrelated amendments.  Some lawmakers want to use the pension legislation as a vehicle to move a package of tax cuts and trade-related provisions.  Some Democrats hope to add a minimum-wage increase amendment.