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Rail retirement bill: Back to the House


The Senate Dec. 5 voted 90-9 in favor of Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 (S. 697), ending several weeks of jockeying for position by both bill supporters and detractors.
However, the bill — passed July 31 by the House — now must return to the House for another vote because the Senate didn't approve the original House bill, H.R. 1140, even though it contains exactly the same language (S.697 evolved into H.R. 10).
United Transportation Union National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer believes the House will vote on the bill again as early as next week.
Senate action heated up Dec. 4 when several Senators tried to derail the legislation by attaching so-called "killer" amendments.
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) attempted to add an amendment proposing changes to the bill's scoring, but the measure was defeated 59-40.
Then, Sen. Don Nickels (R-Okla.) offered two amendments, which would've adjusted payroll taxes; the amendments were defeated by votes of 72-27 and 78-21.
Finally, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) proposed an amendment to tie increases in railroad retirement benefits to the fund's return on
investment. It was voted down 78-21.
"It would be unproductive to say anything negative to senators who have not supported us — we'll deal with those who have stood in the way at the appropriate time, but this is not the appropriate time," said Brunkenhoefer in a prepared statement. "We do not want to get any lawmakers unnecessarily angry with us while we're still awaiting another House vote and need the President's signature on this bill."