Butch Lewis Reaches Critical Stage

Butch Lewis Watch – Installment #6
 
By Jonathan Kantor
 
 
The Select Committee on Multiemployer Pensions conducted a hearing yesterday and made clear that it would now turn to crafting a legislative solution to the multiemployer pension crisis. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) stated that he and the Chairman of the Select Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), had agreed that beginning next week, their respective staffs would be empowered to “get serious about negotiations,” to enable the Select Committee to “get close to real solutions in September.” Hatch added that the Select Committee will come together on a bill and that it would be to no one’s liking.
 
The hearing gave little indication of what form the compromise might take. However, one possibly significant indication came when Chairman Hatch praised the testimony of Timothy Lynch, a lobbyist for business interests in Washington DC. Lynch has been working closely with the US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying group which actively supports the proposals of the NCCMP. The NCCMP is a powerful lobbying organization for multiemployer plans that wants to make the loan assistance program under Butch Lewis beyond the reach of plans like AFM-EPF. And they want to make it much easier for trustees to cut pensions when they want to. Mr. Lynch, in his testimony, voiced frustration at how slow and cumbersome it was for trustees to get pensions cut under current law.
 
Mr. Lynch stated that he supported the concept of government assistance for only the most severely underfunded plans. This is close to what the NCCMP has proposed, which is that only plans that cannot get US Treasury approval of their cut applications should get Government loans. But since both Lynch and NCCMP are also proposing that cut applications be virtually automatically approved, the loans would be extended to only a handful of programs that cannot get their cuts approved. 
 
Today’s hearing, together with last week’s hearing, confirms that Butch Lewis is under attack from powerful Washington insiders and lobbyists  – and that lawmakers are listening to them.