Congress blocks Seattle effort to help residents set up IRAs

By voting to repeal an Obama administration rule change, Congress has killed Seattle’s chance to set up retirement-savings plans for the city’s private-sector workers.

Congress has scuttled a Seattle City Council member’s plan to help people who don’t have retirement plans through their employers save money for retirement.

Following the lead of the House of Representatives, the Senate voted Thursday to repeal an Obama administration rule change giving cities such as Seattle legal wiggle room to provide such workers with Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

Councilmember Tim Burgess has been working for the last year on a proposal for Seattle to set up an IRA plan. Joined by counterparts in New York City and Philadelphia, Burgess lobbied President Barack Obama’s Department of Labor for the rule change. Thursday’s vote means his proposal now will likely begin gathering dust.

“It’s disappointing because this was a very pro-business, pro-worker, pro-economic-growth rule that would have benefited up to 200,000 workers in Seattle,” Burgess said.

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“Our small-business community loves this idea, but we’ve lost it to the kind of partisan idiocy we see in Washington, D.C.”

The repeal cleared the House by a wide margin, with Washington’s four Republican representatives voting for it.

But it nearly stalled in the Senate, where the vote was 50-49, breaking largely along partisan lines. Washington’s senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, were in the minority, voting against the repeal.

“We understood last week that maybe there were three Republican senators who had agreed to vote in favor of keeping the rule, but then (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell put out the word … and only one Republican defected,” Burgess said.

The Senate is still considering the repeal of a related rule change for states.

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