Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Does the Senate Have Any Bite, or Is It All Bark?

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, Continental and American did an end run around compromises reached in the pension reform legislation last year. In his column yesterday, Jeffrey Birnbaum reports that the Senate Finance Committee is not happy about it:
The top brass at the Senate Finance Committee are incensed over a legislative end-around engineered by American and Continental airlines. The airlines used their contacts with the Democratic leadership in Congress to sneak into the Iraq war spending bill a provision that will reduce the payments they have to make to their workers' pension plans, a move that will save them millions.

The Finance Committee's senior members are not pleased. They have asked the airlines' chief executives to explain themselves and are warning that theirs may well have been a Pyrrhic victory.

"These two airlines flew around the Finance Committee to get this pension provision in the spending bill, but we will review, in the light of day, exactly what deal they got," Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said ominously.

"The committees of jurisdiction spent many months working on a pension bill that took each airline's status into account," added Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the panel's ranking Republican. "These two airlines and their allies in Congress have undermined that work."

In other words, flyboys, you've made some powerful foes.

Really? I'll believe it when I see it. If the Senate Finance Committee is incensed, then there is nothing that prevents Baucus and Grassley from introducing new legislation to undo the end-around and building the support to pass it. There may yet be hope for the Senate if they do.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I'm no political scientist, but it seems to me that from the Senate's point of view, everyone wins here: The Finance Committee gets a juicy issue to publicize, nice hearings to embarrass bad guys (corporate CEOs are bad) and, after the wind dies down, the original senators all still get their campaign contributions from the airlines. WIN WIN WIN!