Senate Republicans kill Railroad Retirement bill

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers learned on October 26 that the Railroad Retirement & Survivors Improvement Act of 2000, H.R. 4844, would not become law this year as the Senate will not vote on it before adjourning for the year.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), with the backing of three ultra- conservative Senators, refused to attach 4844 to any bill. However, in an act of support for the nation's rail carriers, Lott attached the 4.3 cent diesel fuel tax repeal measure to a separate tax bill, H.R. 2614.

Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Don Nickles (R-OK) successfully convinced Senator Lott to hold the bill from consideration by the full Senate.

Their opposition was based on two factors. One was a desire by ultra-conservative legislators to completely privatize the Railroad Retirement system as a prelude to a plan to privatize Social Security. The second concerns the fact that - under the federal government's unitary budget scoring system - transfers of Railroad Retirement funds from the U.S. Treasury to the new Railroad Retirement Trust Fund could be scored as a reduction in assets on the federal books.

Sources say that Gramm, reportedly being considered as Secretary of the Treasury if George W. Bush is elected, wants to score those assets to offset tax cuts promoted by Bush's campaign.

H.R. 4844 would have reduced the vesting requirement under the Railroad Retirement system from 10 years to five, eliminated the actuarial reduction for those who retire prior to age 62, increased surviving spouses' annuities, and eliminated the Railroad Retirement maximum.

The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives by a 391-25 margin, had 83 Senate co-sponsors.

It should be noted that of the four Senators who collaborated to kill the Railroad Retirement bill, only one - Lott - was up for reelection this year. Lott was endorsed by the United Transportation Union and was reelected by a large margin on November 7.

 

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers