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Pension plan assets took a beating last year, and companies that sponsor defined-benefit pension plans face the bill for that damage next year in the form of sharply higher plan contributions. But recent events on Capitol Hill suggest Congress may act to allow companies to postpone the reckoning. The numbers involved are immense. Watson Wyatt estimates that under current rules, U.S. companies are on the hook for $89 billion in pension contributions next year and $146.5 billion in 2011.

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