March 20, 2023

Whitehouse Applauds Biden Veto of Fossil Fuel-Backed Attack on Free Market Capitalism

Labor Department rule will protect pension funds and retirement accounts from systemic financial risks posed by climate change. Whitehouse, Rep. Casten release op-ed hammering GOP for bowing to Big Oil and jeopardizing Americans’ retirement savings

Washington, D.C. – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, today cheered President Joe Biden’s veto of a fossil fuel-funded push to reverse a Department of Labor rule that allows fiduciaries to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in retirement plan investing. 

“MAGA Republicans and their fossil fuel overlords want Americans to believe that an epidemic of woke-ism has hit America’s fiduciary financial institutions.  Not true.  The truth is that the long-forecast dangers of climate change are imminent, and prudent investors and honest fiduciaries must now consider climate risk when investing.  I’m glad the President saw through the lies spread by the fossil fuel industry’s vast political apparatus and vetoed this effort that would have prevented Americans from saving for their retirement as they see fit,” said Whitehouse. 

The Department of Labor’s final rule, titled “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights,” would protect the hard?earned life savings and pensions of tens of millions of workers and retirees across the country.  The rule allows retirement plan fiduciaries to make fully informed investment decisions by considering all relevant factors that might impact a prospective investment, while ensuring that investment decisions made by retirement plan fiduciaries maximize financial returns for retirees.  DOL’s rule does not mandate ESG – it is merely a return to free market principles.

Whitehouse voted against the measure when it came before the Senate in early March.  The Senate narrowly voted to join the Republican-controlled House in voting to overturn the Biden administration rule, sending the measure to the President’s desk.  An array of fossil fuel industry-funded groups backed this effort, including the Republican Attorney General Association, State Financial Officers Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Leonard Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust.  Wall Street, bankers, business associations, and pension funds opposed this effort. 

Whitehouse also released an op-ed in The Hill today with Representative Sean Casten (D-IL) blasting Congressional Republicans for their attack on working families, capitalism, and the free market.  Whitehouse and fellow Senate climate hawks Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) had previously outlined their opposition to the GOP’s anti-ESG campaign in a CNBC op-ed earlier this year. 

Whitehouse’s Budget Committee is holding a series of hearings on the looming costs and economic risks of climate upheaval.  Under questioning from Senator Whitehouse last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testified that climate change poses severe economic risks that could cascade throughout the entire financial system.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921