SECURE AMERICA’S FUTURE ECONOMY,
advocating smaller, more focused, less costly government since 1996
December 2, 2019
Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons & Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester,
We would like to let you know how SAFE feels about several current matters.
FIRST, our members are thoroughly disenchanted with the House impeachment inquiry, which in our view is being pursued for reasons of political payback vs. principle. See Democratic presidential candidates miss the boat again, 11/25/19, Secure America’s Future Economy (blog page), 11/25/19.
SECOND, congressional failure to take care of even “routine” tasks is inexcusable. Essentially nothing has gotten done this year, including the following items:
•Twelve appropriation bills for fiscal year 2020 were supposed to be completed by 10/1/19 under the congressional budget rules; not a single one has been sent to the president for signature.
•The USMCA treaty has been agreed with Mexico & Canada after months of painstaking negotiations and it’s time to seal the deal with our trading partners.
•A decision is needed on proposals to rescue multiemployer pension plans, which are underfunded by some $600 billion. We would favor denial of support to solve a problem that the federal government did not create, but in any case Congress should stop kicking the can down the road and make a decision.
Longer term, Congress is committing institutional suicide by failing to exercise its exclusive legislative powers (Constitution, Article I, Section 1) and forcing the executive branch to fill the resulting vacuum by aggressively interpreting its administrative powers. Impeachment push is symptom of underlying problems, Secure America’s Future Economy (blog page), 12/2/19.
Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.
#12/18/19 Response from Shivani Pampati, Economic Legislative Correspondent, office of Sen. Coons - Thank you for contacting our office regarding the impeachment, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and Multiemployer Pensions Plans (MEPP). I wanted to let you know that I have read your message and shared it with Senator Coons. I know he appreciates your taking the time to write to him about this issue.
With regards to impeachment, Senator Coons is extremely troubled by the allegations that President Trump misused the powers of his office by withholding vitally needed military and development assistance to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian president to investigate one of President Trump’s political rivals in our upcoming 2020 election. He believes that the House of Representatives properly exercised its constitutional responsibility to investigate these allegations, which is what an impeachment inquiry was designed to do. Congress was able to hear directly from some of the appropriate witnesses, including career diplomats, decorated veterans, and President Trump’s own appointees during two weeks of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Senator Coons believes that if the House of Representatives votes to impeach President Trump, the Senate must hold a full and fair trial on the articles of impeachment. It is his hope that his colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the Senate will carefully consider what role they want to play at this moment in our country’s history.
On the USMCA, Senator Coons is pleased that the President and his House Democratic colleagues were able to come to an agreement with two of our largest trading partners and allies. After China, Canada and Mexico are our second and third largest agricultural trading partners, respectively, and both are important markets for the American poultry, fruit, and vegetable industries. The mid-Atlantic region has particularly close trade relationships with Canada and Mexico—the Port of Wilmington is the largest gateway for fruits, vegetables, and poultry that Delaware family farms produce—and our region deserves access to open markets in those countries. Senator Coons appreciates that USMCA expands market access for American poultry and dairy exports to Canada. He is proud of his House Democratic colleagues’ work with the Administration to strengthen the enforcement mechanism in USMCA, so that our trading partners maintain these high labor and environmental standards. Under Trade Promotion Authority, the final agreement of USMCA must be approved by both chambers of Congress by a majority vote. The Administration sent USMCA implementing legislation to Congress and it was introduced in the House of Representatives on December 13th. Congress has 90 days upon receiving it to hold a vote.
Finally, millions of Americans rely on employer-sponsored pension plans as a source of income to support themselves and their families. In exchange for years of service, workers are rewarded with guaranteed benefits designed to provide income during retirement. One type of pension plan is a multi-employer plan. Multi-employer pension plans (MEPPs) are created through collective bargaining agreements between a labor union and two or more employers. However, since the financial crisis, several MEPP's have become at risk of insolvency, putting participants' retirement incomes in jeopardy. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates that 10-15% of multiemployer plan participants are in plans that are projected to become insolvent within 20 years. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, more commonly known as the Butch Lewis Act, which Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Richard Neal introduced. The bill would allow MEPPs to apply for loans with a 30-year repayment term along with additional assistance from the PBGC. It would establish a Pension Rehabilitation Administration within the Department of the Treasury to administer the loan program. The Butch Lewis Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 264-169 and is currently before the Senate Finance Committee.
Please feel free to contact our office using the information provided below if you would like to speak to me further about these issues. Again, thank you for writing to Senator Coons.
Note: This response ignores the inexcusable delay in budget paperwork that was highlighted in our letter, the fact that the multiemployer pension plan issue was not satisfactorily addressed, and our suggestion that Congress is committing institutional suicide.