Senators Believe Pension Bill is Unfair

Texas' Senators are steamed. They believe the House of Representatives passed a bill that isn't fair to Houston's Continental Airlines and Ft. Worth based American. Texas lawmakers claim bankrupt Delta and Northwest Airlines get extra time to fully fund their pension programs. And that harms Continental and American. A showdown over the bill could come this morning. Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill.

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Many big companies contend pension guarantees are bleeding them dry. United Airlines and U.S. air ditched their pension programs. Washington's now picking up the tab. Bankrupt carriers Delta and Northwest are threatening to do the same. So, the House authored a bill that gives those airlines more time to fully fund their pension programs. And that means Continental and American could be required to contribute 600 million more dollars a year to their pension funds than their rivals.

"...This is just unfair...."

Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn.

"It penalizes those who kept their obligations and commitments to their employees and haven't dumped their pension responsibility to the American taxpayer."

Cornyn's resistance is threatening to blow up a gigantic bill to help turn around a 23 billion dollar deficit in the government's kitty used to backstop insolvent private pension plans. Cornyn thinks Continental and American should be rewarded for making good on its pension commitments. Continental's been bankrupt twice. American once dodged filing for bankruptcy by an hour.

"We'd be satisfied with equal treatment. We're not asking for better treatment."

Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of the Woodlands explains why he's worried about treating all airlines fairly.

"If we put one at an advantage or disadvantage over the other, I think we're going to cause some job losses we didn't mean to."

If the Senate changes the pension bill, the measure must return to the House of Representatives. House majority leader John Boehner of Ohio worries it could be tough to approve an altered bill.

"When you get humpty dumpty put together, you better get it passed because when it falls apart, you'll never get it back together again."

And if Texas lawmakers get their way, Boehner could find himself feeling much like all the king's horses...and all the king's men.

For Houston Public Radio, I'm Chad Pergram on Capitol Hill.

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