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Grassley to Chair Senate Finance Committee

In what will be his third stint as chairman, veteran senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has decided to return as head of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

When the 116thCongress convenes in January, Grassley, 85, plans to step down from his current position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to take on the Finance role. The Finance Committee chairmanship will open up as a result of the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has endorsed Grassley's decision to serve as chairman.

Grassley is no stranger to the Finance Committee. He was a force in steering major legislation through the committee and on the Senate floor when he served as chairman of the committee in the early-to-mid 2000s.

One of his signature initiatives in the retirement arena is the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA). Many of that law’s provisions originated and advanced through the committee under his leadership.

In addition, Grassley was a key sponsor of the retirement reforms that formed the basis of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and were later made permanent in PPA ’06. Those reforms included higher 401(k) and IRA limits, catch-up contributions for workers age 50 and older, a permanent Savers’ Credit and a wide array of other savings initiatives.

In 2003, Grassley also guided the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act to enactment and helped steer the Medicare prescription drug plan legislation through Congress.

With respect to current retirement security initiatives, Grassley has been relatively quiet over the past two years. However, he has supported Hatch’s Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) and was a strong proponent of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). He also expressed alarm over the Labor Department’s now-vacated fiduciary rule.

Under Senate Republican Conference rules, Grassley only has two years remaining to serve as Finance Committee chair and will be able to serve for one full session of Congress. Depending on what he intends to accomplish over the next two years, Grassley will need to work with his forthcoming counterpart in the House — Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who is expected to take over as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. Neal has indicated that he wants to make retirement security legislation a priority in the next Congress.