Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Sen. Harkin, chairman of HELP Committee, to retire

Harkin plans to introduce in February a bill to advance his USA Retirement Funds initiative

(AP photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
(AP photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced Saturday that he will not seek re-election for his term expiring in 2014.

Harkin said in a statement that his decision was twofold: to fulfill a promise that he made to his wife and, after 40 years as a congressman and senator, to “make way for someone new” to fill his Senate seat.

“I’m 73 years old right now. At the end of this term I’ll be 75,” Harkin said in the statement. “When the current Congress is over, I will have served in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for a total of 40 years. After 40 years, I just feel it’s somebody else’s turn.”

Harkin continued, “I came to Washington with a simple goal: help people. It was that goal that has inspired me throughout my career and one that will continue to inspire my work.”

In early December, Harkin said that the retirement deficit crisis prompted him to recently pen a report, “The Retirement Crisis and a Plan to Solve It”, which includes a proposal to provide universal access to pension plans called Universal, Secure and Adaptable (USA) Retirement Funds.

Harkin said that he intends to put his report “in bill form” when the new Congress convenes in January. A spokesperson for Harkin’s office told AdvisorOne on Friday that bill would likely be introduced sometime in February. Harkin’s plan will be two-pronged: USA Retirement Funds—which he described as innovative, privately run, hybrid pension plans that incorporate many of the benefits of traditional pensions while substantially reducing the burden on employers—as well as expanding Social Security benefits by $65 per month.

During his next two years in Congress, Harkin said he would also work to advance the following:

• Moving forward with bills to ensure that all Americans are able to achieve the promise of a quality education—beginning in early childhood, continuing through elementary and high school, and culminating with higher education.

• Working to significantly increase the employment of individuals with disabilities, in order to continue to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• Ensuring the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

As an appropriator and as chair of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds health, education and labor, Harkin says that he would ensure these initiatives have the funding necessary for implementation. So too, he says, he would he continue to advance farm policy that advocates for farmers markets and increased local production and marketing of food.

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