Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Butch Lewis Act

July 24, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 397, the Butch Lewis Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I thank you, Chairman Scott, for your leadership on behalf of America’s working families.  Thank you for your role in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.

And, to Chairman Neal, thank you as well for your Chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, so essential in our being able, today, to come to respect the work of America’s workers.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And I rise in support of the legislation and in opposition to the amendment.

I thank, again – this is about the financial security and the future of America’s workers.  Our House Democratic Majority was elected to fight For The People and today, as we pass a bill that is bipartisan, has bipartisan support, that is exactly what we are doing.

The Butch Lewis Act delivers justice for 1.3 million workers and retirees facing devastating cuts to pensions earned over a lifetime of work.  It protects the financial security of families, ensuring workers have the benefits they’ve earned and they need to provide for spouses, children and grandchildren.  And, it honors the sacred pension promise in America that if you work hard, you deserve the dignity of a secure retirement.

Sadly, years of relentless special interest agendas have put that promise in peril.  Unchecked recklessness on Wall Street ignited a financial meltdown that dealt a devastating blow to multi-employer pension plans, while dangerous deregulation and relentless attacks against unions have eaten away at these plans’ health.

If we do not act, the pensions of many workers and retirees will be cut to the bone and the financial security and futures of their families and communities will be thrown into jeopardy.

Workers are the backbone of our nation and we cannot accept a single penny to be cut from their pensions.  Congress has a responsibility to do right by hard-working Americans.

We have a responsibility to Americans like Sam, a retired coal miner from southwest Virginia, who has second stage black lung and relies on the $475 a month pension to pay for his health care because he has been denied federal black lung benefits.

We have a responsibility to Americans like Kenneth from Wisconsin who needs his pension to provide for his five children, nine grandkids and, until recently, his beloved wife, Beverly, whom he just lost to cancer.  Yet, his pension faces a 55 percent cut.

And, we have a responsibility to Americans like Rita, who is here with us today – wife to Butch Lewis – this bill’s namesake, who so heroically fought until his death to protect pensions, including Rita’s survival benefits.  As Rita testified before Congress, and I quote, ‘This pension wasn’t a gift.  He worked hard for every penny of that pension.  He gave up wages and vacation pay and other benefits, so I would be taken care of if something happened to him.’

But now that pension risks being slashed to the core.  Workers, retirees, survivors like Sam, Kenneth and Rita are forgoing much-needed medicines or working into their 80s for more income and are being robbed of their benefits they need to help out their families – not Rita, she’s not working into her 80s.

We must act now.  We will swiftly pass this bill to honor workers’ dignity, support their families and protect their futures.

We must always remember that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy and our workers are the strength of that middle class.  In fact, I do believe that the middle class has a union label on it.

In the coming months, the House will continue to build on this progress, passing future legislation on behalf of working families.

Our Majority is For The People and we’ll work relentlessly to restore a government that works for the people’s interests, not the special interests.

I urge a strong, bipartisan vote to protect the pensions of workers and retirees and I urge Senator McConnell to immediately take up this bill so we can send it to the President’s desk and give comfort to so many families in America.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.