Portman’s Retirement Will Cap a Career of Retirement Advocacy

With two more years left in what will be his final term in the U.S. Senate, the question now becomes whether Rob Portman can help secure another round of retirement reforms.

News broke early Monday that U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will not seek re-election after his term finishes in 2022, generating no small measure of surprise and a degree of consternation for the retirement planning industry.

This is because Portman is viewed by many retirement planning professionals as one of their top advocates in Congress, and that has long been the case. Portman has not only held a leading position on the powerful Senate Finance Committee for many years—including formerly being chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy—he has been one of the main advocates of several popular pieces of retirement reform legislation supported by advisers and their industry trade groups.

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“I feel fortunate to have been entrusted by the people of Ohio to represent them in the U.S. Senate,” Portman said in a statement declaring his pending retirement. “Today, I am announcing that I have made a decision not to run again in 2022. This doesn’t mean I’m leaving now—I still have two more years in my term and I intend to use that time to get a lot done.”

Naturally, retirement industry practitioners will be eagerly watching what the Senate does during the newly installed Congress, which will now be Portman’s last. Clearly, the legislative priorities of the Senate will differ from those of recent years, given the transition to a Democratic majority. However, there is significant hope that retirement-focused legislation—as it has often been in the past—could become a point of significant bipartisan cooperation under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

“Over the next two years, I look forward to being able to focus all my energy on legislation and the challenges our country faces, rather than on fundraising and campaigning,” Portman says. “During my service in the Senate, I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Ohio and the country. I have consistently been named one of the most bipartisan senators. I am proud of that and I will continue to reach out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground.”

As summarized in Portman’s statement, the senator saw 82 of his bills passed under President Donald Trump, and he brought 68 over the finish line under President Barack Obama.  

“I am hopeful that President Joe Biden will follow through on his inaugural pledge to reach across the aisle, and I am prepared to work with him and his administration if he does,” Portman says.

Though there are some provisions that are less popular than others, generally speaking, the retirement planning industry supports a piece of legislation called the “SECURE Act 2.0,” so named because it would build on many of the provisions of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. Sources say Portman is a strong supporter of many components of the legislation—and of a related proposal referred to as the “Portman-Cardin bill.”

Though his statement announcing his retirement does not specifically outline his final priorities, it stands to reason the senator will continue his focus on such bills. There is also hope that Portman could help deliver a bipartisan solution to the union-sponsored multiemployer pension funding crisis, yet another topic on which he has been vocal.