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Butch Lewis Act passes House, reintroduced in Senate

Yippee!  Congratulations to everyone!

The Butch Lewis Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives last night. And I had the privilege of sitting upstairs in the House Gallery of the Capitol watching the debate with hundreds of activists, including Rita Lewis, who is the widow of Butch, the bill’s namesake, as well as Mike Walden, Kenny Stribling and Sherman Liimatainen, all officers of the National United Committee to Preserve Pensions. We were all there with representatives from the Teamsters Union, the Steelworkers Union, the Bakery Workers Union and many others.

And when the bill passed 264 to 169, we all whooped and cheered and the members of Congress  on the Floor looked up at us and waved while they also cheered. Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) came up to the gallery to thank everyone for their support. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) also came upstairs to say hello to everyone (Congresswoman Kaptur was one of the first members of Congress to fight on this issue).

After the vote, Rita Lewis, crying with tears of joy, said “This shows when we all act together we can get anything done. We got Democrats…we got Republicans, and we can get this to the Senate and get the bill passed, and then we can live in peace knowing we have our pensions.”

It’s important to point out that this was a bi-partisan vote. Twenty-nine Republicans joined 235 Democrats to vote with us on the bill, showing that the Butch Lewis Act, and the multiemployer pension crisis it addresses, is indeed an issue that crosses party lines. The evening had some back and forth, though, with Congressman Phillip Roe (R-TN) offering an amendment to toughen standards for loans under Butch Lewis. However, the amendment was roundly defeated, as were the bill’s opponents.

The Butch Lewis Act is a commonsense piece of legislation that would protect the benefits retirees have earned by providing loans and other assistance to troubled pension plans and allowing them the time to recover their losses and repay the loans.

I’m also happy to report that the Butch Lewis Act was reintroduced yesterday by 27 Senators, led by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tina Smith (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).  The Pension Rights Center urges the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass, before it’s too late, a comprehensive solution to a problem threatening hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country.

In case you missed it, read my op-ed published in Newsweek yesterday.

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