The two are introducing their coalition a week before the House is expected to take up a $64 billion plan that aims to help troubled pensions. The proposal would provide low-interest, 30-year loans to troubled multiemployer pension plans. The prospects for that plan passing the Senate, however, appear grim.
Though Boehner and Crowley say their coalition intends to raise awareness, some in Congress are acutely aware of the pension issue. A joint committee of House members and senators last year co-chaired by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio failed to find a solution. Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who also served on the committee, have more than 60,000 constituents in the troubled plans.
Boehner and Crowley said they have no plans of endorsing a specific plan, but said instead their goal simply is to heighten awareness. “I’m not sure there’s broad knowledge in our country or on Capitol Hill about how serious this problem is,” said Boehner.
Their goal, Boehner said, is to “let Congress develop a solution.”
“It’s certainly not up to Joe and I,” he said. “We’re not legislators any more. We’re going to let the legislators be the legislators.”
Crowley said if the systems collapse, those who had pensions of $15,000 a year would see it shrink to $300 annually. “That’s about a cup of coffee per week,” he said.
Both said that the failure of the system would decimate the rest of the economy, potentially leading to increased unemployment and layoffs.
“What we’re bringing to the table is an alarm bell that this issue needs to be addressed,” Crowley said. “Because millions of Americans — not just a few thousand — face real hardship if their pensions are slashed or cut or compromised.”