The House yesterday adopted an amendment that would bar the government's pension insurance agency from using any appropriated funds to take over the pension plans of bankrupt United Airlines.
Because the agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., does not receive any appropriated funds, it was not immediately clear what, if anything, the measure would mean.
Nonetheless, the lawmakers, by a 219 to 185 vote, attached the amendment to the 2006 funding bill for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. No such provision has been approved by the Senate.
The amendment was sponsored by Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, with Reps. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).
It "sends a strong message to United Airlines and any other employers looking to follow United's lead: You can't just walk away from the promises you made to your workers," Miller said.
Schakowsky said the "amendment would give Congress a chance to work out a better solution than pension termination."
United's parent company, UAL Corp., has been operating in bankruptcy protection, and United chief executive Glenn F. Tilton told the Senate Finance Committee this month that if the airline is forced to keep its pensions, the company will not be able to get out of bankruptcy, and both jobs and pensions will be lost.
PBGC officials said they are analyzing the measure to try to figure out what impact it might have.