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Kline Statement: Markup of H.J. Res. 88

Today, the committee will consider H. J. Res. 88, a resolution to block a harmful new regulation that will restrict access to affordable retirement advice.
I would like to begin by thanking our colleague, Dr. Roe, for his leadership on this very important issue. Since 2011, he has served as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. Throughout his service as chairman, he has helped lead the fight for responsible policies that would strengthen the retirement security of working families.
In fact, Dr. Roe has led our efforts to hold the Department of Labor accountable for its attempt to rewrite the rules governing investment advice. We have spent a lot of time in recent years focusing on this issue because it is vitally important to millions of low- and middle-income families; it is vitally important to our small business owners and the men and women they employ; and it is vitally important to the health and well-being of our nation’s future.
Since this regulatory process began roughly six years ago, we made it clear that we believe there should be greater protections for those investing and planning for retirement. We also made it clear that we would not support a regulatory regime that restricts access to affordable financial advice and makes it harder for working families to save for retirement. Unfortunately, that is precisely what we have today.
Despite the significant concerns of policymakers on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol, the department charged ahead with an extreme, partisan regulation. The final rule does include some modest changes that will no doubt appease a few detractors, but make no mistake, the rule is still fundamentally flawed and harmful to those saving for their retirement.
The department’s final rule will still encourage frivolous litigation and drive up costs for those who can least afford it. The rule will still limit the educational information people with IRAs can receive. The rule will still hinder access to certain options individuals have to plan for their retirement. And the rule will still make it harder for small businesses to provide retirement options to their workers.
This has become ObamaCare for retirement planning: Dramatic change imposed on the lives of working Americans that will drive up the cost of retirement advice and force people to lose access to their trusted advisors. Regardless of the rhetoric we hear about the rule and why it’s necessary, it will be low- and middle-income families who are hit the hardest. The wealthiest Americans won’t feel a thing. They will continue to pay high-priced advisors to manage the details of their investments and retirement portfolios just like they did before this rule.
Wealthy Americans can afford to pay for this level of financial assistance, low- and middle-income families, on the other hand, cannot. As is often the case, the very men and women we want to protect will be hurt the most.
The fact that this all could have been avoided makes it even more unfortunate. There is broad, bipartisan agreement we need to strengthen protections for those saving for retirement. Republicans and Democrats even agree financial advisors should be required to serve their clients’ best interests. Again, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Roe, Congress has put forward a responsible, bipartisan alternative that would strengthen protections without hurting middle-class families and small businesses.
This bipartisan consensus should have been the basis for meaningful, responsible reforms. Instead, the administration took the old “my-way-or-the-highway” approach, in spite of the costs and consequences. That is why we are here today. Congress should not accept a flawed, partisan rule when there is a responsible, bipartisan alternative. More importantly, Congress should not stand by and allow a federal regulation to create this much havoc in the lives of the American people.
Since the department began its rulemaking in 2011, this committee has kept an open mind in the hopes that the department would get this right. Ultimately, our response to the final rule is based on a simple question: Will it make it easier or harder for working families to save for retirement? Because the final rule is too expansive, too complex, and too restrictive, there is little doubt that it will be a significant obstacle to the retirement security every family deserves.
I urge my colleagues to support this resolution so we can block a harmful rule, keep working toward a responsible, bipartisan alternative, and protect hardworking men and women saving for retirement.