Senate passes bill to kill Biden’s ‘awakened’ pension plan ESG rule: Democrats Manchin and Tester join Republicans in preventing ‘interference’ in 401Ks – but president has already said it will be his first VETO
- Moderate Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin, W. Va., and Jon Tester, Mont., The Republican side on the censure resolution
- Critics say environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors for investing are based on political agendas versus getting the best returns for savers
- The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk and is expected to veto it
The Senate voted 50 to 46 to block a Biden administration rule that allows pension fund managers to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions for nearly half of the country.
Moderate Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin, W. Va., and Jon Tester, Mont., The Republican side on the censure resolution. Sens. John Fetterman, D-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., did not vote because they deal with health issues.
The bill now goes to the office of the president and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said he would veto it. The legislation is not expected to override a president’s veto, as a two-thirds majority vote is required in both the House and Senate.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, W. Va., and Jon Tester, Mont., joined Republicans in voting for a bill to block a Biden rule that allows ESG factors in private sector pension fund decisions
Ahead of the vote, Manchin spoke on the Senate floor about the measure, slamming the Biden administration for its “unrelenting campaign to weaken our national security, our economic security.”
He said President Biden’s Department of Labor (DOL) prioritized “liberal policy agenda over protecting and growing retirement accounts.”
On Tuesday, the House passed the censure resolution 216 to 204, with a Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted with Republicans to block the rule.
Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind., who led the Senate effort, brought the resolution forward and passed it by a simple majority thanks to the Congressional Review Act.
The Department of Labor in November unveiled a rule that allowed retirement managers to consider ESG factors, replacing a rule that required managers to focus on delivering the best returns for the 152 million Americans who invest with the ERISA retirement plan .
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 defines a strict fiduciary responsibility for nearly all retirement plan professionals who have long adhered to it.
ERISA covers most employer-sponsored retirement plans and manages $11.7 trillion in assets.
The White House has said the rule, which would introduce a provision that Trump reversed to order money managers to focus strictly on returns, is “not a mandate.”
“It doesn’t take a fiduciary to base investment decisions solely on ESG factors,” said the White House Office of Management and Budget.
“The rule simply requires pension plan fiduciaries to make a risk and return analysis of their investment decisions and recognizes that these factors may be relevant to that analysis.”
Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., introduced the bill as Republicans make corporate “wokeism” their new battlefield
Democrats argue the rule allows retirement managers to make investment decisions that may be less profitable in the short term, but more profitable in the long run as clean energy and sustainability projects become more lucrative.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 ESG index was down 9.5 percent over the past year, but down 10.5 percent in a decade. The S&P 500 Energy Index rose 24.1 percent in a year, but only 1.2 percent in a decade.
Several ESG rating agencies are responsible for judging the good and the bad, and some critics say that without proper measurement, the practice can amount to a “marketing plan.”
Not everyone opposes the ESG rule — several Wall Street wealth advisers, including BlackRock, Inc., believe that green investing focused on retirement plans can be lucrative.