Chances of Congress acting on any of the several legislative proposals to expand retirement savings went from slim to none, as the 115th session of Congress prepared to adjourn Friday. Lawmakers were still struggling to pass a stop-gap measure to keep the federal government open, before going home.
The 116th session of Congress begins Jan. 3 with a Democratic majority in the House and retirement advocate Richard Neal, D-Mass., to take over as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Bills that came close to passage include the Senate's proposed Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act and the House-passed Family Savings Act. Both proposals would have made it easier for smaller employers to join open multiple-employer plans, ease non-discrimination rules for frozen defined benefit plans and add a safe harbor for selecting lifetime income providers in defined contribution plans.
The House passed its version late Thursday, with no time for further action.
Other topics expected to be in the mix in the next Congress are letting employers contribute to 401(k) plans while their employees pay down student debt and reaching part-time workers. Legislation on those points was introduced this week by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, largely to frame the debate in 2019.
"We've missed an opportunity," said Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute in Washington, noting there was strong bipartisan support for the retirement proposals in both the House and Senate.