Some high-profile committee leadership vacancies in Congress, combined with upcoming midterm elections and a one-sided tax reform victory for Republicans, promise to make 2018 an interesting year on Capitol Hill.
For starters, Republicans who ended 2018 with a major victory on tax reform now have to work with Democrats on fiscal year spending bills and budget limits to avert a government shutdown later this month.
Once that crisis is settled, other congressional priorities are expected to change following retirement announcements by influential committee chairmen, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on the Senate Finance Committee. Mr. Hatch, who also serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has championed numerous retirement savings bills, including the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act in 2016, with more than 30 provisions addressing lifetime income, retirement plan rollovers, safe harbors for automatic features, and ways to encourage open multiple-employer plans.
Another notable departure from the Finance Committee is that of tax and benefits counsel Preston Rutledge, the newly installed assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration at the Department of Labor. His agency's regulatory agenda includes more work on the fiduciary rule for brokers and advisers, and a revamp of Form 5500. Because of his experience, Mr. Rutledge has a good understanding of what this Congress can, and cannot, do.
On the House side, departures coming at the end of the year include House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who pledged to work with the White House on passing an infrastructure bill this year, and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, an outspoken critic of Dodd-Frank regulations who has also pressed for reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Mr. Shuster's departure could delay efforts by the White House to advance a serious infrastructure program in 2018, which many investors have been waiting to see. Mr. Hensarling's departure is expected to mute calls to roll back post-crisis regulations.