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Post-Midterm Election Analysis

Nov 13, 2018 | SHARE  
Post-Midterm Election Analysis


The 2018 midterm elections were held Tuesday, November 6. There were 470 federal races on the ballot, with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 Senate seats up for reelection. Heading into the election, Democrats were strongly favored to win control of the House for the first time in a decade. In the Senate, Republicans were favored to retain their majority and perhaps pick up additional seats—26 of the 35 Senate seats up for reelection were held by Democratic incumbents. Early in the evening, those predictions appeared to hold true: Democrats made significant gains in the House and Republicans prevailed in many close Senate races. While three Senate races are too close to call or are entering a runoff and just over a dozen House races are still being counted, we can confirm (as of November 9) that the House will have 228 Democrats and 199 Republicans, and the Senate will have 47 Democrats and 52 Republicans. Current results can be viewed in the maps below.


House Map

Source: https://www.270towin.com/2018-election-results-live/house/


Senate Map

Source: https://www.270towin.com/2018-election-results-live/senate/)


Congressional Leadership


Over the coming weeks, both parties will conduct elections to determine who will serve in leadership positions in the 116th Congress. On the Democratic side, House leadership elections will be held on Wednesday, November 28th. Steering and Policy Committee chairs will be ratified shortly thereafter. Committee assignments will be determined in the week following Steering and Policy Committee chairs. If there are major changes in leadership, there will likely be a delay in the timeline for Steering and Policy Committee chairs and committee assignments.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to be elected Speaker of the House, but could face challengers within her own party. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who ran an unsuccessful bid against Pelosi for minority leader in 2016, stated he is not running for speaker but did not completely rule out the possibility. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced his bid for House Majority Leader after serving as House Minority Leader under Pelosi’s leadership. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) announced his bid for House Majority Whip. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) also announced her bid for House Majority Whip, setting up what could be an interesting election for the position. Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn all held their respective positions the last time Democrats won the House in 2008. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Whip Clyburn would be the most likely scenario for the top 3 Democrats in leadership.


However, there is a larger group of Democrats who have announced intentions to serve in leadership. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), who led House Democrats to victory as DCCC chairman, is weighing options to run for Majority Whip or Assistant Leader. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) sent a letter last week demanding that a member of the Congressional Black Caucus receive one of the top two leadership positions in a Democratic House. Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and David Cicilline (D-RI) have both announced they will run for Assistant Leader. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) are running for Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) may make bids for Caucus Chair. Finally, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is another member to pay attention to for a leadership bid, as he travelled the country to several toss-up seats this cycle. Regardless of who occupies the top three spots in the Democratic leadership, there are several groups to pay attention to who will wield considerable influence in the next Congress: the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the New Democrats.


The Republicans, on the other hand, will begin their deliberations for House leadership next week. On Tuesday, the House Republican Conference will begin a three day marathon of candidate forums, leadership elections, and an organizing conference. The details for the organizational meetings are as follows:


·     Tuesday, November 13th: House Republican leadership election candidate forum

·     Wednesday, November 14th: Organizing Conference and Leadership Election

·     Thursday, November 15th: House Republican Conference meeting to ratify conference rules and Steering Committee structure


Outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) appointed the following members of the 115th Congress to a task force to recommend a plan for Republican Steering Committee regions: Mark Amodei (R-NV), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Michael Conaway (R-TX), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR).


In the race to lead House Republicans, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) announced he will challenge House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for House Minority Leader. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) announced his intentions to run for House Minority Whip, although he had previously hinted at the possibility of running for minority leader. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is on track to join leadership as well due to Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) stepping down from her position as Chair of the House Republican Conference. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) is likely to run for Vice Chair.


In the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will continue as Majority Leader and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will continue to serve as Minority Leader. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is leaving his post as Majority Whip, and it is likely that Sen. John Thune (R-SD) will take his spot. Even though Sen. Cornyn will not be Majority Whip, look for a new appointment for him in leadership as the heir-apparent to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


House Committee Assignments


With Democrats taking control of the House in the 116th Congress, the makeup of the standing committees will change. With the exception of the Committee on Ethics, committee ratios will generally reflect the share of seats in the full House of Representatives—ratios will be determined once all House races are certified. As noted above, both parties will hold steering committee meetings over the next several weeks to determine final committee composition and assignments for new members.


One of the more dramatic outcomes from Tuesday’s midterm results was the defeat of current Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his reelection bid to Democrat Colin Allred. Sessions’ defeat makes it possible for Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the current vice-chairman of the committee, to serve as the ranking member for the Rules Committee in the 116th Congress. Rep. Cole is the next most senior member on the committee, but he may pursue the ranking position on the Appropriations Committee. If he does, that position would make him ineligible to serve as the ranking member on Rules, making Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) the ranking member on the Rules Committee.


In the 115th Congress, there were 30 Republicans and 24 Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Of those 54 members, 23 Republicans and 23 Democrats won reelection. On the Democratic side, 1 member retired this year (Rep. Gene Green from Texas). On the Republican side, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) was defeated in his reelection bid. Reps. Gregg Harper (R-LA), Ryan Costello (R-PA), and Joe Barton (R-TX) retired, and Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TX) both won their races for the U.S. Senate. Currently, Rep. Mimi Walters’ (R-CA) reelection bid is still too close to call against a Democratic challenger. Based on Tuesday’s election results, Democrats may increase their majority on the committee by adding four more seats. This is noteworthy because no Republican will have to step down from the committee. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will become the chairman and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) will become the ranking member.

The Ways and Means Committee was made up of 40 members in the 115th Congress—16 Democrats and 24 Republicans. Of those members, 14 Republicans and 15 Democrats on the committee won reelection to the 116th Congress. Only one Democrat was defeated, and that came during Joe Crowley’s (D-NY) primary bid. Four Republicans were defeated on election night: Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Mike Bishop (R-MI), and Erik Paulsen (R-MN). Three more Republicans are retiring at the end of the 115th Congress: Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Sam Johnson (R-TX), and Dave Reichert (R-WA). Finally, three Republican members are leaving the House in pursuit of higher office. Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Jim Renacci (R-OH) were unsuccessful in their respective governor and Senate races, but Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) won her bid for governor. Republicans will likely be adding two members to the committee, perhaps three depending on the House ratios. Democrats will have to add at least nine members to the committee. Rep. Richie Neal (D-MA) will serve as the chairman, and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) will become the ranking member. Full subcommittee assignments won’t be known until January as senior members make their choices about which committees they wish to hold leadership positions.


Further analysis of key House committee projections in the new congress can be found below. Chairpersons or ranking members in italics indicate predictions or other scenarios in which the member is not directly in line to become chairperson or ranking member.



Senate Committee Assignments


As expected, Republicans maintained control of the Senate. By the time all official results are announced, it is likely that Republicans will hold a 54-46 majority in the upper chamber. While these results haven’t created as much committee reassignment activity as in the House, there will still be a few changes in the Senate committees. The most notable change in Senate committee composition will come from the Finance and Banking Committees. Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) retirement at the end of this Congress will create a vacancy in the Finance Committee, where he served as chairman, and in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Two more vacancies were created on Senate Finance due to the defeat of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Dean Heller (R-NV). A potential loss for Sen. Bill Nelson* (D-FL) would create a fourth vacancy. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) would be the next in line to serve as Finance Committee chair if he so chooses. If Sen. Grassley does not seek the Finance Committee gavel, then it will go to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who currently chairs the Banking Committee. If Sen. Crapo becomes chairman of the Finance Committee, then Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) will take over the Banking Committee. The retirement of Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and the defeat of Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have created four Banking Committee vacancies to be filled.


Other Senate committees with vacancies to fill include Agriculture, Appropriations, and Energy and Natural Resources. Ag Committee Democrats will need to replace Sens. Donnelly and Heitkamp, and Republicans may need to find a replacement for Sen. Hyde-Smith (R-MS) if she loses her runoff later this month. Hyde-Smith also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. One spot for Democrats opened up on the Armed Services Committee due to the defeat of Sen. McCaskill; a second could open up if Sen. Nelson loses the Florida recount. Sen. Heitkamp’s defeat also created a vacancy for Democrats on the Indian Affairs Committee. Finally, Republicans will need to fill a seat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee due to the retirement of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).


Full projections of key Senate Committee assignments can be viewed below. Chairpersons or ranking members in italics indicate predictions or other scenarios in which the member is not directly in line to become chairperson or ranking member.


*The recount for Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat has not concluded at this time


Lame Duck Session (115th Congress)


The lame duck session will serve as Republicans’ opportunity to pass several pieces of legislation while they still maintain full control of Congress. However, with a new Democratic majority in the House coming in January, it’s unclear the degree to which Democrats in the 115th Congress will want to work with Republicans to push through legislation at the end of the year.


Farm Bill


High on the list of must-pass legislation is the farm bill (H.R. 2 and S. 3042). H.R. 2 is currently in conference committee; House and Senate conferees will continue resolving differences when they return to Washington next week. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, stated that he and other leaders on the House and Senate Ag Committees are working to complete a conference report soon. Peterson, who is expected to become chairman in the 116th Congress, stressed the importance of getting the bill passed during the lame duck when he told reporters post-election, “I think we’re relatively close.  I think we can work this out and get this done before this Congress adjourns. That is my number one priority, to get that accomplished,” Peterson added.1 House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) will be a key player in whether the legislation is completed before the lame duck session ends. Conaway has been vocal on stricter work requirements and tighter eligibility standards for SNAP and his ability to compromise on key areas could make or break the bill’s passage.


Hurricane Response


Natural disaster response will also be a major issue during the lame duck session. Hurricane Michael’s devastation on coastal communities resulted in the approval of FEMA approved funds granted to individuals and households program:


·     Florida ($98,821,015)


·     Georgia ($8,620,270)


Hurricane Florence’s devastation resulted in FEMA approved funds granted to individuals and households programs:


·     North Carolina ($112,405,209)


·     South Carolina ($20,160,002)



FEMA packages for Alabama and Virginia are still pending. There will be continued pressure directed toward the Trump administration to grant more funds to  communities affected by the two devastating storms. President Trump signed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA) on October 5, which called for greater investment in mitigation before disasters occur, increasing state capacity to manage disaster recovery, and increasing the amount of assistance available to individuals and households affected by disasters. Many communities, such as Gulf County and Bay County, continue to express concern over the federal government response and recovery efforts in their respective communities.




President Trump signed the Labor-HHS-Education/Defense spending package into law in September, which avoided a government shutdown. Five of the twelve FY 2019 appropriations bills were signed into law. Tense negotiations over the remaining seven appropriations bills during the lame duck session could complicate issues in the 116th Congress. The last minibus negotiated before the House election recess contained a four-bill package that included appropriations for Agriculture; Interior; Financial Services and General Government; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.2 The legislation contained a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 7, for the seven appropriations bills not enacted by October 1. Those aforementioned agencies are currently running under the CR and failure to extend spending could lead to a partial government shutdown.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also in need of appropriations beyond December 7. Sen. McConnell and Rep. Pelosi will need to address immigration security, funding for the president’s border wall and other enforcement provisions related to immigration to avoid a partial shutdown.


Land and Water Conservation Fund Act


One issue that would likely receive bipartisan support during the lame duck session is the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (LWCF), which Congress failed to renew for FY 2019. LWCF was enacted to:


·     Assist in preserving, developing, and assuring accessibility of lands.


·     Provide funds for and authorizing Federal assistance to the States in planning, acquisition, and development of needed land and water areas and facilities.


·     Provide funds for the Federal acquisition and development of certain lands and other areas.3


The LWCF was reauthorized for a three-year period in 2015 and its revenue stems primarily from companies conducting offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. In June 2017, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources introduced S.1460, commonly referred to as the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA). The bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a way that balances land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states.4 Intense backlash stemming from the lack of reauthorization could allow the bill to pass as a key piece of legislation during the lame duck session.




Taxes will also likely be on the agenda for Congress during the lame duck session.  The main issue of focus will be the tax extenders package. There has been bipartisan support in the Senate for a new package of extenders that would continue the trend of a one year extension for several tax provisions. However, there is not consensus in the House on extending these provisions. House Republicans believe that Congress should either permanently extend all of these provisions or let them expire at the end of the year. The chambers will continue to negotiate differences over the next several weeks.




Another policy area that may be addressed during the final weeks of the 115th Congress is the multi-employer pension solvency issue.  Currently, the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multi-employer Pension Plans is negotiating to find a solution but it is unclear if they will reach an agreement before the end of this session.


116th Congress Priorities


As projected above, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will likely become Speaker of the House when the 116th Congress is sworn in on January 3, 2019. Pelosi, who served as Speaker from 2007 to 2011, issued a brief statement in September to Democratic colleagues detailing the party’s agenda for after the midterms. In the statement, Pelosi identified three broad areas of interest that will serve as the focus from the Democrat-controlled House:


·     Lowering healthcare costs and prescription drug prices.

·     Increasing pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding America.

·     Cleaning up corruption to make Washington work for the American people.


In addition, Pelosi also stated the House will aim to address “vital legislation to protect Dreamers and to advance gun violence prevention.”


In a New York Times article published just a week before the midterms, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders announced they would “use their first month in the House majority to advance sweeping changes to future campaign and ethics laws, requiring the disclosure of shadowy political donors, outlawing the gerrymandering of congressional districts, and restoring key enforcement provisions to the Voting Rights Act.”5


Pelosi said Democrats will also spearhead legislation concerning the following:


·     Campaign Finance Overhaul.

·     Government by the People Act, a campaign finance overhaul measure designed to incentivize small donations.

·     The DISCLOSE Act, a bill to require public disclosure of super PAC donors.

·     The Voting Rights Advancement Act, a measure expanding the federal government’s ability to monitor state election procedures to prevent discrimination.

·     The Election Security Act, a bill establishing grants for states to secure their voting systems.6




Democrats are also likely to ramp up oversight in several areas. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) will presumably take over as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In that position, Cummings will likely seek to review Trump’s tax returns and the president’s other business ventures. Democrats have adamantly questioned potential conflicts of interest related to his personal finances and his administration (particularly emolument clauses related to his hotel dealings).Cummings would hold subpoena power with his position and could call for investigations into other members of the president’s cabinet, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner.


Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who will almost-surely chair the House Committee on Financial Services, has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics since his presidency began. Waters stated she and House Democratic colleagues plan to investigate the president’s personal finances, including a probe into his relationship with Deutsche Bank. She said it was “ordinary” oversight work and that any use of such powers is not retaliatory.7 Like Cummings, Waters will now have the power to subpoena personal financial records from the Trump family related to any alleged dealings, which could result in a bitter partisan fight between House Democrats, House Republicans, and the White House.


Bipartisan Opportunities


There is opportunity for legislation that would benefit both parties such as:


·     The proposed $1 trillion infrastructure package.


·     Re-strengthening the ACA and extending coverage related to pre-existing conditions.


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will continue his role as Senate Majority Leader and will likely face pressure from Republican colleagues to defend policies already passed during President Trump’s first two years. McConnell has remained firm in his goal of filling the judiciary with President Trump’s judicial nominees, calling it his “top priority in setting the agenda here in the Senate.” So far, McConnell has led the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, 29 circuit judges, and 53 district judges during Trump’s presidency and the administration will surely add dozens more after gaining seats in the Senate.


Funding for President Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border will likely continue to be an intense debate between congressional leaders. “There’s no question this will be on the top of the agenda,” Sen. McConnell said, regarding the 116th Congress’ agenda for 2019.8 McConnell spoke with Pelosi the day after the midterms, and stated his intentions to move forward with funding for the border wall.


While many Democrats have universally condemned the construction of President Trump’s border wall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) could find common ground with Sen. McConnell on border security.


“Democrats believe in strong border security,” Schumer said. “We’re going to keep fighting for the strongest, toughest border security.” Schumer’s remarks could pave the way for compromise regarding legislation on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) with funding for the president’s border wall.




Several trade deals with foreign allies will continue into the 116th Congress, including the restructuring of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been re-negotiated as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). Sen. McConnell said the vote to approve the USMCA will be a “next year issue.” In addition, three other trade deals will be further addressed:


·     The US-Japan Trade Agreement, which would link the world’s first and third largest economies, seeks to “further expand trade and investment” between the two countries.


·     The US-EU Trade Agreement, which seeks “to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers, and to achieve fairer, more balanced trade.”


·     The US-UK Trade Agreement will not be officially negotiated until the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019. The goal of this agreement would be to “remove existing goods and services tariff and non-tariff barriers by developing cutting edge obligations for merging sectors where US and UK innovators and entrepreneurs are most competitive.”


State Elections


Control of the governorship and state legislative chambers were of particular importance this election due to the upcoming 2020 Census. Once the Census is completed, states will have the once-per-decade responsibility of redrawing congressional maps, which will be used for the next 10 years.


Leading up to the election, Republican governors represented 33 of 50 states. In 2018, 36 gubernatorial seats were up for reelection, 9 of which were held by Democrats. The Democrats were able to “chip away” at state-level Republican control by winning 16 governorships, giving them control in 23 states. Republicans held on to 19 seats, giving them control in 26 states.*


Democrats made modest gains in state legislatures by flipping five chambers from Republican to Democrat and gaining control of the previously split Connecticut Senate. Minnesota is the only state with a divided legislature. The last time there was only one divided state legislature was over 100 years ago in 1914. Republicans lost four chambers, a legislature, and control in four states. Democrats gained six chambers, four legislatures, and control in six states.9


*The Georgia gubernatorial race has not been certified.




1 Helena Bottemiller Evich. “Pressure mounts to get farm bill done during lame-duck session.” Politico, 7 Nov 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/farm-bill-congress-934673


2 Sarah Westwood and Maegan Vazquez. “Trump signs bill to avoid government shutdown.” CNN, 28 Sept 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/28/politics/donald-trump-appropriations-bill-government-shutdown/index.html


3 Senate and House of Rep. of the United States, Public Law 88-578. “Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965.” 1 Jan 1965. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg897.pdf

4 115th Congress, 1st Session. “S.1460, Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017.” 28 June 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1460/text


5 Nicholas Fandos. “First Up if Democrats Win: Campaign and Ethics Changes, Infrastructure and Drug Prices. The New York Times, 31 Oct 2018.



6 Lindsey McPherson. “Democrats Win House Majority; Here’s What They’ll Do With It.” Roll Call, 7 Nov 2018. https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/democrats-win-house-majority-heres-theyll


7 Sylvan Lane. “Waters defends planned probe of Trump finances after GOP backlash.” The Hill, 9 November 2018. https://thehill.com/policy/finance/415959-waters-defends-planned-probe-of-trump-finances-after-gop-backlash


8 Jenny Leonard. “McConnell Rules Out Vote on New Nafta Trade Deal Before 2019.” Bloomberg, 16 Oct 2018.  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-16/mcconnell-says-senate-vote-on-new-nafta-deal-to-wait-until-2019


9 National Conference of State Legislatures. “NCSL State Vote 2018 Legislative Election Results.” 7 Nov 2018.



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