Dispatch from Washington: November 2022

Americans went to the polls for the 2022 mid-term elections. Democrats outperformed expectations, keeping control of the United States Senate. Control of the House remains undetermined, but Democrats’ path to keeping their majority is closing. While not on the ballot, former President Donald Trump loomed large over the mid-terms, and the results have many questioning his role in the GOP’s future. As of this writing, Republicans appear to have won
a narrow House of Representatives majority,
but several races have not yet been called. In a Republican-controlled House, one can expect much greater oversight of the Biden Administration from several different Committees. With Democrats maintaining control of the Senate, we have some clarity on the agenda in the upper chamber. But before we get to the 118th Congress, there is a lengthy agenda for the remaining weeks of the 117th Congress lame-duck session.

2022 Mid-Terms, By the Numbers

This year, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 Senate seats, and 36 gubernatorial contests were up for grabs. So far, there are 68 newly elected members (7 Senators and 61 Representatives) and 54 incumbents elected to new districts. Votes are still being counted, and in some states, it may take weeks to know the exact number of Americans who voted. Counting has been slowest in states that make heavy use of vote-by-mail because those ballots require additional processing. That said, the 2022 mid-terms showed that an increasing number of voters are participating in early voting; more than 42 million Americans cast their votes early through mail-in ballots or by heading to in-person early voting centers. Voters did not deliver the red wave some Republican had predicted, and which Democrats feared.

Should Republicans fail to pick up one seat in the Senate (there is still one race to be decided in a run-off in Georgia), it would be just the seventh time the opposition party has failed to do so in a midterm over the past 100 years—and the average gain for the opposition party in House races over the past 100 years

is 29 seats, which Republicans won’t match.

What Did Voters Care About?

Of the issues most concerning American voters, national and state exit polls found that inflation and the economy mattered most in deciding how they voted for House candidates, with around three-quarters of voters nationally saying the economy is “poor” or “not good.” Americans are also bearish on the trajectory of the country, with more than 7 in 10 saying they are “dissatisfied” or “angry.” Following the United States Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case, abortion also proved to be a significant factor in the election, with more than a quarter of voters listing it as a top issue. About 61% said they were unhappy with the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and about 7 in 10 of those voters backed a Democratic House candidate. Finally, more than two- thirds of voters for House candidates don’t want President Joe Biden to run for reelection in 2024.

U.S. House of Representatives

Control of the House Representatives is yet to be determined – but it looks increasingly likely that Republicans will control the lower chamber.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is poised to become the next Speaker of the House with a narrow Republican majority, but he and his leadership team are about to enter uncharted territory, and there are several scenarios about the state of play in House Republican leadership. With a majority of somewhere between two to 10 votes, this margin resembles the balance of power that Republicans operated with during the early 2000s. Members of the House Republican Conference are putting forward several conditions for their support of McCarthy, including enshrining in House rules a complete prohibition of earmarks and the restoration of the ability of any Member to demand a vote on removing the Speaker, known as “Vacating the Chair.” McCarthy secured the support of the majority of his conference in a secret- ballot leadership election on November 14. However, he remains short of the 218 votes needed to secure the Speakership. He will have to pacify detractors within his conference to secure the needed votes before the full House of Representatives votes on January 3. Rounding out House Republican Leadership, Steve Scalise (R-LA) will serve as the House Majority Leader in the 118th Congress, and Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) will serve as the Majority Whip.

The future of House Democratic leadership is also in question. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) are all in their 80s, and many have been calling for a younger generation to enter leadership. The House Democratic Caucus is scheduled to hold their leadership elections after Thanksgiving, and it is an open question whether Pelosi will retire—the Speaker has also said that her political future “will be affected” by the attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, at their San Francisco home in October.

House Agriculture Committee – Pennsylvania Republican Glenn “G.T.” Thompson will lead the committee under a Republican majority. The priority for the Committee is the 2023 Farm Bill, a multi-year omnibus measure that covers a range of agricultural and food programs (the current Farm Bill, signed into law in 2018, expires at the end of FY2023). Climate funding could be reduced under Chairman Thompson, who categorized the funding for agriculture climate programs as “misplaced priorities” and has said it could undermine the Farm Bill process. Some observes think that, with continued polarization of Congress and the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, an extension of the 2018 farm policy law, rather than enactment of a new Farm

Bill in 2023, looks to be the most likely outcome.

House Appropriations Committee – Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) is poised to become the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for funding the federal government. Several Republican lawmakers have suggested that Republicans use appropriations bills to force investment in fossil fuels; experts also suggest that a Republican-controlled House would result in greater scrutiny in the House Appropriations Committee regarding agricultural funding.

House Education and Labor Committee – Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R- NC), currently the Republican leader on the Committee, is term-limited and is seeking a waiver to allow her to serve as chair. Under pressure from other Republican members, Kevin McCarthy has signaled he’s not interested in.

House Foreign Affairs Committee – Congressman Mike McCaul (R-TX) will be the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair. This committee will investigate various foreign policy and internal State Department matters, starting with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. They will also reconstitute the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. McCaul is very interested in licensing standards and how the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) approves or denies licenses. Expect hearings into this issue—one was held on July 20, 2022, but it had been years since the House Foreign Affairs Committee held an export control-related hearing. McCaul has been very vocal that the U.S. must strengthen its defense industrial base—specifically, the Committee will look into defense equipment production lines and supply chain security and resilience; access to critical minerals and semiconductors; the defense industrial base labor force; and obstacles and burdensome bureaucracy in the procurement process.

House Homeland Security Committee

The committee is poised to play an especially high-profile role in the next Congress and conduct aggressive oversight of the Biden administration’s border security policies. The Committee may also conduct oversight into supply chain matters, export controls, U.S. entities funded by China, and nearshoring and reshoring by U.S. businesses.

Advocates for overhauling the Department of Homeland Security hope the panel’s next top Republican is committed to tackling wonkier departmental issues that have vexed lawmakers for years. In addition to rethinking the department’s structure and mission, lawmakers could find common ground on border security, cybersecurity, and domestic terrorism matters if committee leadership adopts a bipartisan approach.

House Judiciary Committee – Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) is positioned to be the Chair. The House Judiciary Committee is uniquely equipped to investigate the executive branch. It will likely investigate matters related to antitrust and Big Tech, the border crisis, FBI oversight, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of corporate settlements to fund third-party organizations, and the DOJ’s actions related to school boards. The Judiciary Committee would also have a central role in any effort to impeach President Biden.

House Oversight and Reform Committee – House Republican oversight staff is actively working on an oversight agenda for the 118th Congress. They expect to start sending oversight letters in the first weeks of the new Congress. A part of that oversight agenda will be the anticipated investigations of the Biden Administration and issues directly related to President Joe Biden, his family, and administration officials. The Committee has wide-ranging oversight across jurisdictions, including but not limited to: corporate policies related to ESG and so-called “woke capitalism,” all matters pertaining to Big Tech and greentech, federal contracts under the Biden Administration, DOE grants and loans, university tuition rates, previously unanswered requests, and tax-exempt entities.

House Ways and Means Committee – There is a heated race to lead the Ways and Means Committee, with Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Jason Smith (R-MO), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) are vying for the gavel. Experts believe Jason Smith has an edge in this race right now, and Buchanan has the most seniority out of the three, yet it is unclear who will preside over the Committee. The House Ways and Means Committee has the sole power to craft all taxation-related legislation, and Republicans will pursue a number of key priorities, including making permanent the individual provisions from the 2017 tax reform law, rolling back tax changes enacted as part of the IRA, including the corporate alternative minimum tax and the 1 percent stock buyback excise tax. Some likely oversight issues that the Committee may explore in the 118th Congress include IRS funding and operations, leaks of taxpayer data, tax- exempt entities, university endowments, foreign ties of nonprofit advocacy groups, and industry relations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In the battle for the Senate, Republicans needed to gain just one seat to take the majority—and they came up short. Republicans had high hopes for winning the upper chamber, but Democrat incumbents in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Arizona overcame challenges, and Senator-elect John Fetterman (D-PA) dispatched challenger Mehmet Oz to pick-up the seat vacated by retiring Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) to secure the majority. While the final balance of power in the Senate will not be determined until after the December 6 runoff between incumbent Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and challenger Hershel Walker, Democrats have secured at least 50 seats. A triumphant Senate Majority Leader Schumer called the results a “vindication” for Democrats and their agenda after the party held onto their Senate majority for the next two years.

Nevertheless, Democrats remain far from a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, which is needed to overcome a filibuster, limit debate, and allow the chamber to proceed to a bill’s consideration. Given that limitation, nothing significant will become law without compromise in the House and the Senate.

Unlike the House, there is little drama or intrigue regarding the composition of Senate Leadership. Schumer will remain the Majority leader. His Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will face a challenger in Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), but is expected to easily maintain his leadership post. Senate Democrats are set to hold their leadership elections the week of December 5, and Senate Republicans will vote on their leader on November 16.

U.S. House of Representatives

Many Senate Committees are expected to have new leaders. Retirements are the primary cause of most changes, and movement on one committee has the potential to have cascading effects on others. What follows is a brief overview of select committee agendas and potential leadership.

Senate Agriculture Committee – Leadership on this committee is expected to remain the same, with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) holding the gavel and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) serving as ranking member. The largest item on the 2023 agenda is the Farm Bill, a considerable multi-year measure. The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of fiscal 2023; the legislation, rewritten every five years, has often needed extensions in the past. Funding for nutrition programs is one key area of tension, as the Farm Bill reauthorizes the country’s nutrition assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The debate over climate change and conversation will also be hotly contested.

Senate Appropriations Committee – There will be new leadership at the top of the Committee charged with keeping the government funded due to the retirements of Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is set to become chair and will be joined by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking member, atop the powerful panel. The debate over abortion access, which helped shape the mid-terms following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case, will be put in the spotlight on the Committee. As chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, Murray pushed for an end to the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funds for abortion. Republicans said they wouldn’t support a government funding deal—which requires 60 votes in the Senate to end debate—without the longstanding rider. Murray also introduced a funding bill in July to create a $350 million fund to help people who live in states where abortion is illegal to travel to another state. Health research funding will be a high priority for Collins.

Senate Armed Services Committee – Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) will remain chair of the Armed Services Committee and will prioritize addressing the China challenge. Reed has also backed efforts to increase defense budget authorization and strongly supports boosting shipbuilding. The top Republican, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), is retiring. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is next in line and would need to leave his top spot on the Commerce Committee. Wicker called the Armed Services panel “one of the strongest places in Congress for bipartisanship.” Next year, several other items on the Committee’s agenda include reimagining how the US fights wars, investing in modernization, renewing competitiveness, and sustaining the troops.

Senate Banking Committee – Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will remain the top Democrat. Senator Pat Toomey is retiring, and there are several scenarios here—Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) is the next most senior Republican, but he will likely stay in his post on the Finance Committee; Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is the most likely candidate, followed by Mike Rounds (R-SD). Brown will want to focus on affordable housing policy, an issue he has long been passionate about. Senators will also have their sights on the volatile cryptocurrency market.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will remain chairwoman of the Committee. Senator Wicker (R-MS) is expected to be the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, paving the way for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to serve as the ranking member—the shift in Republican leadership on the panel will set the tone for lawmakers’ ability to advance bipartisan legislation. The committee will need to pass legislation reauthorizing major aviation programs before the end of September 2023. The Committee can also claim some jurisdiction over the virtual currency industry, and Senators will likely examine consumer protections, trading regulations, and financial stability. Senators on the panel will conduct oversight of last year’s infrastructure law.

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee – Senator Joe Manchin (D- WV) will return as chairman, and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) will return as the ranking member. The committee oversees a broad portfolio, including energy production and mining on federal lands and waters, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, national forests, western water and power issues, and the US territories.

Senate Environment & Public Works Committee – Senators Tom Carper (D- DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) return to the top of the dais as chair and ranking member, respectively. The Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure law will be center stage—Democrats want to work with the Biden administration to ensure effective implementation of the two measures, and Republicans will prioritize oversight of the infrastructure law.

Senate Finance Committee – Leadership on the Finance Committee will be unchanged, with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wielding the gavel as chair and Mike Crapo (R-ID) serving as ranking member. The Committee will likely prioritize overseeing the implementation of the climate and energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and a push to expand a tax credit for low- income housing next year.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee – There will be no change in leadership on the Foreign Relations Committee as Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID) remain as the chair and ranking member, respectively. Climate change and foreign assistance programs will be prominent features in the Democrats’ foreign affairs agenda, and there will be a continued focus on curbing the power of China and Russia.

Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is in line for the gavel if Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) moves to Appropriations. Ranking member Richard Burr (R-NC) is retiring. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has seniority on the committee among Republicans but could also become ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Paul has not publicly stated which committee he wants to lead. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is widely seen as the next choice to lead Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee. The Committee is expected to focus on nominees, oversight, and retirement legislation, as well as considering ways to make the US more prepared for the next pandemic.

Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee – Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) will again serve as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The ranking member position is conditioned on a broader shake-up of Republican committee leadership. The Committee will focus on bolstering U.S. defenses against hacks and terrorism. There will also be a greater focus on border security.

Senate Judiciary Committee – Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) will stay in the role, with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) remaining the ranking member. One of the most lasting legacies of a presidency is how they shape the composition of the federal judiciary. The Judiciary Committee will continue to prioritize judicial nominations. Additional items on the agenda include reining in the tech industry, specifically content moderation, and Senators of both parties are likely to continue trying to overhaul Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Lame Duck Agenda

Members of the House and Senate returned to Washington on November 14th to start the lame-duck session, a legislative period lasting through the end of the year that will include lawmakers who will not be returning for the next Congress.

Government funding is the most critical piece of unfinished business, and lawmakers face a December 16th deadline. Congressional leaders seem amenable to striking a bipartisan year-end spending deal that averts a shutdown and boosts federal agency budgets. Lagging election results could delay work on the $1.5 trillion government spending package since members of Congress delayed negotiations until after the mid-terms. Nevertheless, reports suggest that appropriations staff are on track to meet the mid- December deadline. Should there be an agreement, the next government funding deadline Congress will have to address will likely be October 1, 2023, when the 2024 fiscal year begins.
Negotiations on the annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), occurred throughout the fall, and lawmakers are poised to consider the measure early in the lame-duck period. The NDAA, which establishes the Pentagon’s budget and policy for next year, is a rare example of bipartisanship in Congress. It has been passed for over 60 straight years, making it a popular vehicle for attaching legislation that has little to do with defense. One item that may be attached is a permitting reform measure championed by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to speed up the timeline for environmental reviews, among other provisions. The measure was initially in the continuing resolution Congress considered in September, but Manchin asked Majority Leader Schumer to remove the language because of widespread opposition.
The United States will reach its statutory borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling, sometime in 2023 if Congress does not act. Congress may consider raising the debt limit during the lame-duck to avoid a partisan standoff in 2023, especially if Republicans secure control of the House, as is widely expected. Democrats anticipate Republicans demanding concessions in exchange for their support, and Republicans have threatened to use the debt ceiling as leverage for cuts to social spending programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Democrats could use the budget reconciliation process to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling during the lame duck. This filibuster-proof process would not require Republican support but would take up significant floor time in the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to include additional assistance for Ukraine in the year-end government funding deal. Republican support for continued assistance for Ukraine has softened—recent polling suggests that 48 percent of registered Republican respondents believe the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine. In October, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Republicans will not write “a blank check” to Ukraine if they take control of the House—so the matter has taken on greater urgency in the Democratic Conference and the White House.

A bipartisan group of Senators have found consensus on updating procedures for certifying presidential elections. The House passed an election reform measure earlier in the fall, but the Senate has its own version, which has secured over 10 Republican Senate co-sponsors, giving the bill a filibuster- proof majority.

The lame-duck may also see action on marriage equality. In July, the House narrowly passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect same-sex marriage at the federal level. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has been leading efforts in the Senate to craft a bill that will gain Republican support—Senator Schumer hopes that enough Republicans will support the legislation now that the mid-terms are over.

There may be several measures coming out of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee related to tax and trade policy in the closing weeks of the 117th Congress. Committee leadership may advance three expired trade programs, Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Generalized System of Preferences, and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill. There are also ongoing discussions on extending the expanded child tax credit and a myriad of so-called tax extenders that have expired or will expire this year.



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© 2022 Created by ABCPRODUCTION.digital