Accusing me of being one of the "enemies of reform" is as flawed as the editorial on pensions that applied the label ["Government's Disgrace," Oct. 17].

Throughout my career, I have worked to protect the little guy, and there is no better example of that than protecting a worker's pension. That is why I have made reforming our nation's pension system a top priority.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and I, as chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee on retirement security and aging, held three in-depth hearings on pension reform this year. We educated members of Congress about the importance of pension reform and shed light on the areas that needed reform. We worked closely with Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) throughout the summer to come up with a bipartisan bill with strong support to help protect pensions.

Several key principles have guided me: We must do no harm. We must make sure that workers do not lose their pensions. We must protect taxpayers from a bailout of the government's pension insurer, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. We also must ensure that government rules do not exacerbate companies' economic problems, thereby jeopardizing jobs and pensions.

Any suggestion that I have any motive besides protecting the viability of pensions is absolutely false.

I was alarmed that certain provisions in the Senate "deal" would prompt many companies to terminate their plans or enter into bankruptcy to dump their costs on American taxpayers. Auto manufacturers and tech companies, many of whom are just now regaining their financial stability, could be among those hit hardest by these provisions. We should be encouraging these viable businesses to continue making contributions to their plans instead of pushing them into bankruptcy.

Such an unintended consequence could well cost many Americans their jobs and their pensions. My amendment would make a targeted change to the bill to help prevent this.

We owe it to American workers and companies to get this right. I urge Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to bring the Pension Security and Transparency Act of 2005 to the Senate floor immediately and allow my amendment to come to a vote.

-- Barbara A. Mikulski


The writer is a Democratic senator from Maryland.