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Advocacy Alert: In Focus: How the Midterms will Reshape Congress

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November 16, 2022

With 35 Senate races and 435 House races, Congressional observers had plenty to watch on Election Day. Now that most votes are tallied and the 118th Congress is taking shape, this is what we’ve learned:

Republicans Squeak Out a House Majority 
Red wave, it was not. Despite widespread estimates that Republicans would gain a comfortable advantage in the House, Decision Desk HQ projects that the GOP will take the House Majority by just a few seats.

The slim majority will make for interesting interparty dynamics within the Republican conference. With such a small margin for error, a handful of rogue members could sink any bill.

Still, a majority is a majority – be it by 1 seat or 40. The Republicans will control the lower chamber of Congress, meaning President Biden’s agenda will see very little progress in the next two years.

Democrats Retain the Senate 
Narrow victories in Nevada and Arizona mean the Senate will have at least 50 Democrats, making them the majority party with VP Harris’ tiebreaking vote. Georgia will hold a runoff election on December 6th between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. This seat could prove consequential, even though Democrats already captured the majority.

The Senate has been a 50/50 split for the past two years, so a single Democratic defection meant a bill could not pass. Picking up a 51st seat could prove critical for the Democrats by reducing the effective veto power of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin.

Because Democrats lost control of the House, it is unlikely Congress will pass any partisan legislation or budgets. The BNP expects Democrats to be laser-focused on judicial confirmations while they control the Senate and White House.

Republican Leadership Questions Swirl
Although no leadership changes are expected, Republicans in both parties have expressed dissatisfaction with leadership – especially after a disappointing Election Night.

This afternoon, Senate Republicans elected Mitch McConnell as Minority Leader. McConnell fended off a challenge from Florida Senator and NRSC Chairman Rick Scott. Since Scott is the head of GOP Senate campaign efforts, the Republicans’ failure to make gains in the Senate was a stain on Scott’s resumé.

In the House, Republicans voted yesterday to make Kevin McCarthy the Republican nominee for Speaker. McCarthy defeated Andy Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in a 188-31 vote. However, a McCarthy speakership is not guaranteed: he still faces resistance from many Republicans, and his small majority means he cannot afford many defections. McCarthy has been publicly critical of the US Chamber of Commerce’s leadership and recent political activity.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi are expected to retain leadership roles. However, given her relegation to the House Minority and the recent altercation that hospitalized her husband, Pelosi may consider retirement.

Eventful December Ahead
Since Democrats will lose House control in January, they are plowing ahead with a full December agenda. This will include:

  • A spending bill. Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 16, so a new budget must be put in place.
  • A bill to streamline permitting of energy infrastructure. This was a priority of Sen. Joe Manchin, who agreed to support a massive partisan spending bill this year if this was passed, too.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act, an annual military spending bill.
  • Legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and codify Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • An election reform to streamline the Electoral College certification process.

The federal government’s work in appropriating CHIPS+ and Regional Technology Hub dollars continues, too. The BNP will keep you updated as Congress acts.

The 2024 Race Begins
With former President Trump’s announcement last night that he will make another run at the White House, the 2024 campaign is underway. On the Republican side, Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are the early favorites, but many others may vie for the nomination.

Prominent Republicans like former VP Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Josh Hawley have shown signs of interest. GOP governors like Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson, or New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu may test the waters, too.

On the Democratic side, President Biden says he intends to run again, though many observers are less bullish. If Biden opts against running, VP Kamala Harris would be the natural successor, though her poor performance in the 2020 Democratic primary makes her odds questionable. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are all viewed as formidable alternatives.

As 2016 showed us, winning candidates can come from anywhere, and a lot can happen in two years. Let the speculation begin.

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