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While Congress Spends Its Time Trying to Undercut Retirement Security, a Long To-Do List Awaits

Yesterday, President Obama vetoed a measure designed to undermine protections for retirement savers. Shouldn’t Congress be spending its time more productively?

Congress To-Do List

This week, the President vetoed a resolution championed by Republicans in Congress to roll back critical protections for Americans doing the hard work of savings for retirement.

Believe it or not, the rules of the road that have been in place for decades have not ensured that financial advisers act in their clients’ best interest when they give retirement investment advice. Instead, some firms incentivize advisers to steer clients into products that may have higher fees and lower returns. These conflicts of interest in retirement advice cost America’s families an estimated $17 billion a year. As the President has said, “a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure dignified retirement.” That’s why the Department of Labor recently finalized a new rule to crack down on these conflicts of interest and to require that families get advice that’s truly in their best interest, better enabling them to protect and grow their savings.

If that sounds like common sense, that’s because it is. And the Department of Labor worked hard to get the rule right. The final rule reflects extensive feedback from industry, advocates, and Members of Congress. Through a careful, thoughtful process, it was streamlined to ensure continued access to good retirement advice, while maintaining an enforceable best-interest standard that protects consumers

But Wall Street and its Republican allies in Congress continue to stand in the way of these important protections, putting advisers’ profits over families’ savings.

This resolution was just the latest futile attempt by Republicans to roll back important protections for consumers, workers, and the environment. Republicans in Congress have relentlessly fought to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, trying to turn back the clock to when 20 million fewer Americans had health insurance. And just these past few months, Republicans have wasted time trying to block rules that would cut carbon emissions and improve public health, protect workers’ right to organize, and ensure Americans working extra hours get the extra pay they deserve.

These efforts won’t become law, and everyone knows it. So, Congressional Republicans are wasting time trying to undo important progress instead of finding bipartisan solutions to some of the biggest issues facing our country. And you might be wondering, don’t they have anything better to do? Here are a few ideas of what Congress could be spending its time on if it weren’t dead set on undermining retirement security:

  • Providing $1.9 billion in funding that our public health experts say we need to fight Zika
  • Holding a hearing and a vote for a Supreme Court nominee that has more federal judicial experience than any other in history
  • Curbing a prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic that is claiming tens of thousands of American lives each year by investing $1.1 billion in treatment
  • Confirming a nominee to the Export-Import Bank Board, so the Bank has a quorum and can get back up to full strength supporting Made-in-America exports and American jobs
  • Raising the minimum wage so hard work pays off
  • Reforming our broken criminal justice system
  • Preparing for consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a high-standard trade agreement with the Asia-Pacific that will support good, American jobs
  • Investing in our infrastructure to create well-paying jobs and enhance our competitiveness

The list could go on much, much longer. So, instead of letting Congress undo important rules that protect retirement savers (or working families, or Americans with preexisting conditions, or kids with asthma), the President and the entire Administration are committed to making whatever progress we can on these important priorities with the time we have left. Let’s hope Congress takes us up on that.