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Walberg, Rooney Take Action to Protect Retirement Savers

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) have introduced two resolutions of disapproval (H. J. Res 66, H. J. Res 67) to block regulations that jeopardize small business retirement plans, put taxpayers at risk, and undermine the retirement security of working families. 

In the final months of the Obama administration, the Department of Labor (DOL) created a regulatory loophole that will ultimately force workers into government-run Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) without the consumer protections provided by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Concerns have been raised that the department’s actions will discourage small businesses from offering private-sector plans and leave working families with less retirement security, inadequate safeguards, and limited control over their retirement savings. Upon introduction of the resolutions, Chairman Walberg and Rep. Rooney issued the following statements: 

“Our nation faces difficult retirement challenges, but more government isn’t the solution,” Chairman Walberg said. “A better way is to reduce costly red tape and make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement plans for their employees. I urge my colleagues to support these resolutions, which are part of a broader agenda to ensure more Americans can retire with the financial security and peace of mind they need.”

“This last-minute regulatory loophole created by the previous administration will lead to harmful consequences for both workers and employers,” Rep. Rooney said. “Hardworking Americans could be forced into government-run plans with fewer protections and less control over their hard-earned savings. Employers will face a confusing patchwork of rules, and many small businesses may forgo offering retirement plans altogether. Congress must act to protect workers and small businesses from these misguided regulations.”

BACKGROUND: For decades, there has been a uniform set of federal policies governing employer-provided retirement plans to ensure clear rules of the road for employers to follow and strong protections for America’s workers and retirees. However, in 2016, the Obama administration finalized regulations establishing a “safe harbor” from those long-standing rules and that would pave the way to government-run IRAs to be managed by states and certain municipalities. As a result, some employers would be forced to automatically enroll workers in government-run IRAs through payroll deductions. Unlike private-sector retirement plans, workers enrolled in these public-sector plans would not be afforded the important protections provided by ERISA. This misguided approach would lead to unintended consequences, including:

  • Fewer protections. Working families may have less information about the management of their plans and fewer consumer protections if their savings are mismanaged.

  • Less control over retirement savings. Savers would have less control over their hard-earned dollars. Withdrawals or rolling-over investments to a private-sector account could be restricted or penalized.

  • Fewer small business retirement plans. Small businesses may be discouraged from offering 401(k)s, and some may end their existing programs altogether, shifting their employees into government-run plans.

  • Confusing patchwork of rules. Workers would not receive the same benefits across state lines, and employers would struggle to follow complex rules that vary across multiple cities and jurisdictions — even within one state. 

  • Risk for taxpayers. It’s no secret that state and city pension plans are severely underfunded, with some reports estimating over $5 trillion in unfunded liabilities. If government-run IRAs are mismanaged, hardworking taxpayers may end up footing the bill to honor promises made by state and local governments.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress may pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or issuing a rule that is substantially the same without congressional authorization. The resolution introduced by Chairman Walberg (H. J. Res 66) would roll back the regulatory “safe harbor” created by the Obama administration that will result in private-sector workers being forced into government-run IRAs managed by states. Rep. Rooney’s resolution (H. J. Res 67) would block a second regulation that extended the “safe harbor” to include cities and counties. Both resolutions would prevent a future administration from promulgating similar regulations.

To read a fact sheet, click here.

For a copy of H. J. Res 66, click here.

For a copy of H. J. Res 67, click here

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