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Senators favor limits to retirement bill debate, opening door to floor vote

The Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 (S. 697) will come down to a Senate vote, and soon. Senators Nov. 29 voted 96-4 in favor of cloture — meaning those debating the bill will face time limits and be unable to kill the legislation through a filibuster.
But bill supporters, realizing cloture is only a first step, filed a motion to proceed, hoping to bring S. 697 to a vote possibly as early as next week.
"Look at today's victory on the cloture vote this way: It's the first quarter and we're ahead, but we still have three quarters left to play," said Raymond Holmes, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers international vice president and U.S. national legislative representative, in a prepared statement.
BLE officials believe bill opponents might try killing S. 697 by attaching unrelated amendments, such as a cloning amendment or an energy package.
The House July 31 passed their version of the bill (H.R. 1140) by a 384-33 vote.
If enacted, the legislation would provide full retirement annuity at age 60 (instead of age 62) after 30 years of service, eliminate artificial caps on benefits, establish new-employee vesting in the Railroad Retirement System after five years (instead of 10 years), and raise a widow’s Tier II annuities to equal those paid by Social Security (current law sets a widow’s Tier II annuity at 50 percent of a retiree’s Tier II annuity).
The bill also would allow the railroad pension to be invested in a mix of public and private securities.
"This legislation is urgently needed by railroad employees, retirees and companies," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger. "It will provide widows and widowers with an average of $300 per month in additional benefits while at the same time giving the railroad industry more responsibility for the system's financial health."

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More News from 11/30/2001