Airline Pensions

When Congress meets for a lame-duck session next week, lawmakers aren't expected to accomplish much. But one of the few legislative items they might tackle could benefit two major airlines based in Texas: Houston's Continental and American, headquartered in Dallas. Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill.

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When Congress approved a pension overhaul bill earlier this year, Texas lawmakers balked including Texas Republican Kevin Brady.

"The Texas delegation feels like the pension bill picked winners and losers between the airlines."

Brady feels that way because the package awarded bankrupt carriers Delta and Northwest extra time to fund their pension programs...yet froze out Continental and American. That decision permitted Delta and Northwest to shed 6 to 7 billion dollars in future pension obligations. George Washington University Professor Darryl Jenkins studies the airline industry.

"This was a very good thing. It was a very tough battle fought over a long time and had a very interesting compromise that I'm sure nobody liked, but it got the proposed legislation through both houses."

Political observers point out it's interesting that Boehner hails from Ohio and Delta boasts a hub in Cincinnati. Meanwhile Boehner's predecessor Republican Tom DeLay represented Houston. But Congressional leaders including John Boehner promised Texas lawmakers like Kevin Brady, they'd help Continental and American during the lame duck session.

"We would have preferred not to have been fighting this bill after its already been sent to the President but we trust our leader."

But Professor Daryl Jenkins is skeptical.

"Everybody says they're going to do these things and think in this lame duck Congress, it's going to be very difficult to get anything done at all."

And results from the elections may have dampened prospects for the bill's passage. The GOP lost control of the House and John Boehner is fighting off challengers who want his job as Republican leader.

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

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