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.

That compares with the $32.4 billion that companies contributed to their pension plans last year.

Organizations representing companies with pension plans are asking Congress to allow companies to pay over a longer time frame.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.