Sherrod Brown Willing to Compromise on Pension Plan Rescue

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By M.L. Schultze, WKSU

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown told a reporter after a meeting with union members in Canton that he's open to compromise on ways to save hundreds of union retirees' pension funds. 

Brown is the co-chair of a new, temporary joint House and Senate committee to come up with options by the end of the year.   The new Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, will propose a way to restore the precarious finances of what are called multiemployer pensions for groups including the Teamsters, mineworkers, and carpenters.

Brown has been pushing a fix called the Butch Lewis Act, which would provide a low-interest, 30-year loan to the pensions. Conservatives are opposed to the loan, calling it a government bailout. Though the union hall was filled with Butch Lewis signs and shirts, Brown acknowledged uncertainty.

"I don't have preconceived notions on what we end up with," he said. "I'd love to end up with Butch Lewis, I think that's the best idea. But I also understand we've got to get five Republican and five Democratic votes."

The 16-member committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman is also on the committee. If it gets bipartisan support from at least ten members, the measure will go to the full House and Senate for a straight up-or-down vote.  

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