The Senate may not take up a bill to strengthen the private pension system when it returns from a one-week recess, leaders said yesterday, suggesting that the legislation could be dead for the year.

A memo that congressional aides said came from Majority Leader Bill Frist's office said that when the Senate reconvenes on Oct. 17, it will focus on spending bills, Hurricane Katrina-related items and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"Thanks to everyone for all of their hard work on this. We got very close, but were ultimately unable to get it over the finish line," the memo said, referring to the pension bill.

With changes to Social Security making little headway, the pension bill was to have been the primary retirement-related legislation this year.

The measure would take steps to prevent companies from underfunding their employee pension plans and to assure the financial solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the agency that insures plans and takes over bankrupt plans.

The sponsors had intended to pass the bill this week after a quick debate, but were thwarted when several senators delayed action in protest over a provision linking credit ratings with pension funding obligations.