Setting the Stage for the 118th Congress
A message from Danielle Nelson, Director, Torrey Advisory Group
As of Thursday (11/10) afternoon, we still don’t have the official breakdown of the 118th Congress. The House is currently split 209 Republicans/191 Democrats with 35 undecided. The Senate is split 49 Republicans/48 Democrats with 3 undecided.
Historically, midterms have been a rough ride for the party of the President. Since World War II, the President’s party has lost an average of 26 seats in the House and an average of 4 seats in the Senate. Combined with approval ratings for President Joe Biden hovering around 40%, the expectation early in this election cycle was that it could be a wave election for Republicans.
Politics and elections are never that simple, and a number of issues impacting voter motivation, and ultimately turnout have been at play this cycle. For Republicans, the economy took center stage. With inflation at 40-year highs and interest rates increasing at head-spinning rates, there was no lack of fodder. Republicans also focused on crime, although this messaging seemed to resonate more in some parts of the country than others. Democrats focused attention on preserving democracy after the January 6 attack and highlighted major legislative achievements from the spring and summer of 2021 and 2022. Democrats also focused on the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade. There were several ballot initiatives related to women’s rights and polls in several states showed abortion rights as a top tier issue for motivating voters.
Voter Turnout Continues to Rise
Voter turnout is always important to watch in midterm elections. Turnout is historically lower than in Presidential elections and energizing specific segments of the electorate can have an outsized impact. On average, voter turnout for midterm elections has hovered between 40 and 50 percent since the late 1970’s. In 2018 we saw turnout top 50 percent, and the expectation is that when all the votes are counted, turnout this election will be one of historic turnout. Of note for this cycle, more than 44 million votes were cast early.
A Record-Setting Year for Spending
This election also set records for political spending. It’s expected that spending for the 2022 election cycle will surpass $16 billion – more than what was spent in both 2018 and 2020. While party and candidate spending tended to favor Democrats, outside expenditures strongly favored Republicans.
House of Representatives: A House Flipped?
While Republicans were expected to take the House by a large margin, their lead lessened as the results rolled in. Even a full day later, House control remains unknown as the numbers are close, though continue to lean in favor of the Republicans. Of note, incumbents in both parties held the advantage in most close House seats.
In terms of the House Ag Committee, current Chair David Scott (GA) and Ranking Member G.T. Thompson (PA) were successfully reelected. Committee incumbents that survived tough re-election challenges included Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Sharice Davids (D-KS), and Don Bacon (R-NE). However, both parties saw the loss of Ag Committee members with Cindy Axne (D-IA), Al Lawson (D-FL), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Mayra Flores (R-TX) losing their reelections.
Senate: All Eyes on GA, NV & AZ
In the Senate we are down to three races that need to be determined with either party needing to capture two of them to claim majority in the Senate. With little surprise, the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R) will go into a runoff slated for December 6. In the meantime, all eyes remain on Nevada and Arizona as we await the vote counts.
Looking at the Senate Ag Committee, Senators John Boozman (R-AR), John Thune (R-SD), John Hoeven (R-ND), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), as well as Michael Bennet (D-CO), all won re-election. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) was elected to the seat vacated by Senator Patrick Leahy’s retirement, and he will likely seek a spot on the Ag Committee.
About the Author: Danielle started her career on Capitol Hill diving right into key food and agriculture issues for a Midwest member in 2013. From the Hill she helped build robust regulatory, political, and legislative strategies for major agricultural trade associations at the federal level. Danielle understands the ins and outs of creating and executing on strategic policy agendas against a constantly changing policy environment. She currently serves as a Co-Chair for the Women in Government Relations (WGR) Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force.
Team Torrey Takeaways
Even though we don’t know the official make-up of the next Congress, there were a few key themes that emerged from Tuesday. These themes will play a heavy role in policymaking over the next two years, including in food and agriculture.
The 2022 midterms showcased that a real demographic shift toward younger voter turnout is taking place which will have an effect on policy priorities (e.g. climate).
On the Farm Bill it’s clear that neither party will have governing majority in the House; therefore, it will require significant intra-party compromise to get a bill passed.
If Republicans take control of the House, it’s expected that they will engage a series of oversight hearings, including Ag Committee oversight of new USDA programs.
In state capitals, Republicans continue to have control of a majority of legislative chambers, but Democrats increased their numbers and influence in several states. They gained control of both legislative bodies in Michigan and Minnesota, and will have single party control of state government leadership in Maryland and Massachusetts with wins in governor races.
November 14 – 18
Senate & House in Session
House GOP Leadership Elections & Conference Rules
November 21 – 25
November 29 – December 2
Senate & House in Session
House Democrats Leadership Election
December 5 – 15
Senate & House in Session – focus on government funding & NDAA
Target adjournment date for both chambers
January 3 or 4
Swearing-in Day – Elect Speaker of the House
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