(Senate - May 03, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 76 (Wednesday, May 3, 2017)]
[Pages S2717-S2718]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                            VOTE EXPLANATION

 Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I was necessarily absent for the 
votes on the motion to proceed and passage of a joint resolution 
disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor known as the 
State Automatic IRAs Rule, H.J. Res. 66.
  On vote No. 119, had I been present, I would have voted nay on the 
motion to proceed to H.J. Res. 66.
  On vote No. 120, had I been present, I would have voted nay on 
passage of H.J. Res. 66.
  A few weeks ago, after their failed attempt to dismantle our Nation's 
healthcare system, Republicans launched a full-scaled attack on 
retirement savings by rolling back an important rule that would have 
allowed local governments, as well as small businesses, to expand 
access to a retirement savings plan. Rolling back that rule will make 
it nearly impossible for working-class families to save for retirement.
  Today Republicans voted to roll back a similar rule that allows 
States, including Illinois, to provide access to a retirement savings 
account to millions of working American families. Their actions here 
today are misguided and will hurt, not help, many working class 
  We are facing a crisis. Tens of millions of Americans have very 
little savings for retirement. Half of households age 55 and older have 
little to no retirement savings, and some 55 million working Americans, 
including 1.5 million in Illinois, work for an employer that does not 
offer a retirement plan.
  There was a time when Americans were able to depend on the proverbial 
``three-legged stool'' to support them in their retirement: their 
pension, Social Security, and their personal savings. However, with the 
decline of pension plans and the inability of working-class Americans 
to personally save for retirement, that three-legged stool is now a 
pogo stick. Pensions once provided a promise of security in retirement, 
but they are becoming a thing of the past. Of those that remain, many 
are struggling to pay the benefits they promised, creating uncertainty 
and fear for those who have worked hard their entire lives.
  Decades of stagnant wages, increasing income inequality, and job 
losses from the recession have made it difficult for workers to keep up 
with everyday costs such as housing and food, let alone save for 
retirement. Social Security is the only guaranteed source of retirement 
income most Americans have, and, sadly, this is nowhere near enough. 
Since there is no simple solution to addressing this crisis, we have to 
consider every option that will make saving for retirement easier.
  In Illinois, 1.5 million workers do not have access to a retirement 
plan through their employer. These employees are more likely to earn 
less money and work for a smaller employer. To make it easier for 
employers to offer access to retirement savings plans and help workers 
save more easily, States began developing State-based individual 
retirement accounts or IRAs. My home State of Illinois, under the 
leadership of Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, led the way by 
being the first State in the Nation to create a State-based IRA called 
the Secure Choice Savings Program, making retirement a financially 
viable option for Illinois families.
  The Secure Choice program allows Illinois businesses that do not 
offer a retirement plan and have been in business for 2 or more years 
to either offer their own retirement plan or automatically enroll their 
employees in the Secure Choice program. Contrary to the false narrative 
offered by Republicans that this imposes a burden on businesses, 
businesses in Illinois are largely supportive and the administrative 
burden is small. This program gives businesses the opportunity to help 
their employees save for retirement without being subject to additional 
Federal regulations under ERISA and without being subject to the costs 
that are preventing them from offering a retirement plan in the first 
place. Under the program, all employers have to do is share information 
about the program that is provided by the State with their employees. 
Employers do not have to find plans or investment vehicles, and 
employers make no investment decisions. These State programs provides 
businesses with a no-worries, low-cost way to enable retirement 
  There are also claims that imply that States will manage these funds 
like their State pension assets or other State funds. This is simply 
not true. Funds under the Secure Choice program will not be comingled 
with other State funds. These funds, which are owned by the employee, 
will be managed by a private investment company, they will be separate 
from the State's budget and pension funds, and they cannot be used for 
any other purpose.
  Once an employee is enrolled, 3 percent of their paycheck is 
automatically deducted and placed into an IRA. The employee has 
complete control over how the money is invested. The employee can take 
the plan with them should they change jobs and they may choose to opt 
out at any time.
  The Department of Labor's rule under attack gives State and local 
governments' certainty to develop these programs that make it easier 
for employers to provide access to retirement savings plans. This rule 
has allowed the States to step in where the private market has failed. 
By voting to strike this rule, Republicans have created uncertainty for 
retirement savings programs that could help the 55 million Americans 
otherwise without access the means to secure their financial future.
  In Illinois, the consequences are great as this will make it 
unnecessarily difficult for 1.5 million working-class Illinoisans to 
access one of the only viable means they may have to save for 
retirement. With the country facing a retirement savings crisis, the 
last thing we need to do is stymie States' efforts to explore 
innovative policy solutions.
  These resolutions are just the latest chapter in Republicans' assault 
on working families. I am afraid this story will continue before there 
is a happy ending in sight. What we should be doing is working together 
to remove

[[Page S2718]]

the fear of retirement and give workers the tools they need to retire 
with dignity. I am willing to do that, and I hope my colleagues will 
join me.