Senate Votes to Roll Back ‘Auto-I.R.A.’ for Workers

In Economy, Social Security and Retirement On
- Updated

WASHINGTON — By a single vote, the Senate gave final approval on Thursday to a measure to block cities and counties from organizing retirement savings accounts for workers who have no access to employer-sponsored plans. The vote reverses a Labor Department rule that allows local governments to automatically enroll private-sector workers in retirement plans unless they opt out.

The 50-49 vote was a startling reversal for many Republicans, who have argued for much of their careers that overzealous federal regulators were trampling the rights of state and local governments. In this case, congressional Republicans protested that President Barack Obama’s rules gave local regulators too much leeway.

Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, a sponsor of the legislation, called it “unconscionable” that the Obama administration’s rule was denying workers federal consumer protections. The White House has indicated that President Trump will sign the measure into law.

New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle all have considered retirement plans taking advantage of the Labor Department rule — what they call a “safe harbor” — that Republicans seek to reverse. Five states have also passed legislation permitted by a similar Labor Department regulation, which gives the states the power to appoint private money managers who would oversee portable savings accounts for workers.

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