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Midterm election power shift could bolster retirement legislation efforts

The congressional power shift stemming from Tuesday's midterm elections raises the possibility that some retirement legislation could be passed before the current Congress adjourns for the year.

Among the possibilities is a compromised version of the Senate's Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, and the House-passed Family Savings Act, both of which would make it easier for smaller employers to join open multiple employer plans and create a safe harbor for selecting lifetime income providers in defined contribution plans.

The midterm election results mean the House of Representatives will be controlled by Democrats, who will outnumber Republicans 219 to 193 when the 116th Congress begins in January. The final number for Senate Republicans' majority is still being confirmed, with one special Senate runoff election in Mississippi Nov. 27.

Many Senate committee leadership changes still have to be sorted out, including who will replace retiring Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

On the House side, the House Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax-related retirement issues, will now be chaired by Richard Neal, D-Mass., a longtime proponent of increasing retirement savings and sponsor of several proposals, including one that would require many employers to offer a 401(k) or 403(b) plan or incur an excise tax.

Several committees that will now be controlled by Democrats have potential jurisdiction to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns and 2016 election interference allegations.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, these were the most expensive midterm elections ever, with more than $5.2 billion projected to be spent this election cycle, surpassing the previous record of $4.2 billion.