Senate switch may boos S. 697
The Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 (H.R. 1140, S. 697) continues to garner support, and receive further support from an unlikely mid-year switch of power to the Democrats in the Senate.
Not only is the bill continuing to gain cosponsors in the U.S. Senate, its passage has been urged by many state legislatures around the country (see BLE State Update this issue).
S.697 currently has 66 members of the Senate signing on in support. With one more cosponsors, it will be able to withstand a Presidential veto. A bill needs two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 members, to be considered veto-proof.
The exit of Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) from the Republican party may also help get this much needed legislation passed by the Senate. His move to Independent status gives the Democrats a 50-49 majority. With Democrats now in the majority, they took control of the various committee chairmanships, which should make it easier to get S. 697 to the Senate floor for a vote. It stalled last year at this juncture when three Republican Senators used procedural means in the Republican-controlled Senate to keep it from going to the floor for a vote. New Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is a cosponsor of the measure, which should help move the bill out of the committee and onto the floor.
In the House, the bill has been marked-up by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, but is awaiting approval by the House Ways and Means Committee. The Ways and Means Committee has a deadline of July 12 to consider the legislation. The committee may run short on time because Congress will be in recess from June 30 to July 8 for the Fourth of July. The Ways and Means Committee closed the bill to new co-sponsors because they are going to act upon it. H.R. 1140 had 367 co-sponsors as of June 13.
BLE members, GIA members and their families are encouraged to keep pressure on those members of the House and Senate who are not supporting this bill by contacting them in their Washington, D.C. offices while they are in session and in their district office while they are adjourned for recess.
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers