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Senate passes sweeping pension plan legislation

[JURIST] The US Senate passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006 [HR 4 materials] by a margin of 93-5 [roll call] Thursday, a key bill its supporters say will preserve the workability of traditional employer-employee pension benefits packages while at the same time opening new savings options and reducing the likelihood of government bailouts. Forty-four million workers and retirees will be affected by the new legislation, which was designed to ensure that promised pensions will still be available when workers retire. The measure, which passed the House of Representatives last week [JURIST report], drew opposition from lawmakers who said it gives companies too much leeway to terminate plans and authorizes overbroad exceptions for the airline industry. In particular, it allows airlines in bankruptcy court that have frozen their pension plans to claim they are financially sound despite large liabilities, giving them an additional ten years beyond the seven years allotted to most companies to fully fund their pensions. President Bush is expected to sign the bill when it arrives on his desk.

Also on Thursday, the Senate fell short of advancing [roll call vote] an estate tax cut provision added to a package of middle-class tax breaks and minimum wage hikes. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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