Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
(Senate - May 03, 2017)
Text available as:
Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.
[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 76 (Wednesday, May 3, 2017)] [Pages S2717-S2718] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] 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 families. 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 savings. 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. ____________________