January 8, 2002

WASHINGTON–A tally of the votes that passed the new Railroad Retirement bill shows that Illinois’ senior Senator, Democrat Richard J. Durbin, voted in favor of the Railroad Retirement reform measure on all eight occasions when matters affecting the measure came before the full Senate.

The state’s junior Senator, Republican Peter Fitzgerald, ended up voting for the bill, but on procedural matters en route to its passage he backed the rail unions and the carriers on only five out of eight votes, or 67% of the time.

The differences between the two senators surfaced on the fourth, fifth and sixth procedural votes.

Two of these votes were attempts by Republicans to add new language that would have changed the provisions already agreed upon by the bill’s sponsors, the rail carriers and the rail unions. The remaining vote would have sent the measure back to committee, delaying a final vote until 2002. All were uunpalatable to the bill’s sponsors and would have effectively killed the bill for this session. Durbin voted against all three of these dilute/delay efforts, while Fitzgerald approved them.

However, after the bill survived all efforts to dilute its language or delay its passage and came to the floor for a vote, Fitzgerald joined Durbin and 88 other senators December 5 in approving the Railroad Retirement and Survivors Improvement Act 90-9. The Act, which includes improved benefits for railroad employees and their families, was signed by President Bush and took effect January 1 of this year.

On the House side of Capitol Hill, all members of the Illinois delegation voted in favor of the bill on both occasions when it was voted on there.

The House delegation’s 20th member, Republican Dennis Hastert, did not vote, since as Speaker of the House he votes only when needed to break a tie.

Hastert did not sit idly on the sidelines, however, said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

“The Speaker was firmly committed to Railroad Retirement reform from the start,” Szabo said. “He took charge of the legislation and made sure it moved smoothly through committee and debate so it could reach the floor with all of its original language intact. All of our members owe him a big thank-you for the way he got the job done.”