Change is Afoot after Historic Election
Last week’s election of Donald J. Trump as the nation’s 45th president came as a surprise to many, both inside and outside the Beltway. However, one thing is certain: one-party rule has returned to Washington, D.C. for the first time since 2010. This time, Republicans will control both chambers of Congress and the White House. Specifically, House Republicans lost six seats but hold a 238-193 advantage with four races yet to be called; Senate Republicans lost two seats and hold a 51-48 advantage with Louisiana’s Senate seat headed to a runoff election; and President-elect Trump is likely to end up with more than 300 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote.
What this means in terms of policy is still coming into focus, but is certain to mean a very different direction on nearly every policy front. First to take hit will likely be a number of issues that were front and center during the campaign: Obamacare, including a push to repeal the law and replace it with an alternative proposal; climate policy, including the cancellation of billions of dollars in payments to United Nations climate initiative; government regulation, including the repeal of executive orders put in place by President Obama; financial regulation, including a push to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; trade, including the reopening of the North American Free Trade Agreement; and immigration, including an effort to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the nation’s southern border.
A robust infrastructure package may also be part of Trump’s first 100 days. On the campaign trail, Trump promised a $1 billion infrastructure investment over ten years, but offered scant details as to how he would pay for such a package. It is unclear at the moment if a near-term package would include new money or a series of tax code changes and other financing mechanisms that won’t have as much direct impact.
The immediate impacts of the election will be apparent when both the House and Senate return to Washington for the lame duck session. Their primary work will center on funding the government. A short-term continuing resolution (CR) passed in September funds much of the government through December 9th. By that date, Congress will either have to pass an additional CR to carry things into next year (and the next Congress) or finalize the 2017 spending measures for the remainder of the fiscal year. While both courses of action seem feasible and advantageous for Republicans in both chambers, they have yet to reach consensus on how to proceed. Other issues that could be considered in the lame duck session include WRDA, which passed both chambers and is currently being conferenced, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is particularly unlikely with Trump’s election.
While the only positions named by the President-elect so far are Chief of Staff Reince Preibus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, many familiar names from previous Republican administrations appear to be in the mix to fill the hundreds of positions a new President must name. NARC will keep you updates as the transition takes shape…
We have a good indication of the regulatory side that will involve congressional action to overturn or limit action on several Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, including lowering the ground-level ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb and regulations in the Waters of the US rule that would expand bodies of water subject to the Clean Water Act. Congress may also act to limit the impact of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) overtime rules.
Republicans will maintain a slight lead in the Senate, as Democrats gained only two seats. House Democrats gained seven seats with several still not decided, but the Republicans kept a large majority.
Transportation-related Committee Changes
As a result of retirements, Election Day losses, and Republican chairman term-limits, there are changes coming for the congressional committees that deal with transportation. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will see significant changes at the top. Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is term-limited as committee chair and will be replaced by John Barrasso (R-WY). Ranking Member Barbara Boxer is retiring at the end of this Congress, and there are several candidates to replace her. Seator Tom Carper (D-DE) is next in line, followed by Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). All three, however, may opt to stay in leadership positions on other committees, which could elevate Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to EPW Ranking Member. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is retiring. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over transit, will also have a new Chairman in the 115th Congress. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is term-limited as chair, will be replaced by Michael Crapo (R-ID). Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will remain as Ranking Member. Two members won’t be with the committee next year: Vitter and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who lost his reelection. Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to be chaired again by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), but Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is retiring. Mikulski will be replaced by one of: Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), or Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Kirk, who currently serves on the Transportation Subcommittee, is the only other member of the current committee that will not be back next year.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership will remain the same in the 115th Congress. Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) survived a reelection challenge from a fellow Republican who ran in an open Democrat slot, and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) will return as ranking member. Surface Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and ranking member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) also both won reelection and are expected to return to their respective slots. There will be a number of open slots on the committee, as nine members will not return to Congress. Representatives John Mica (R-FL), former committee Chairman, and Cresent Hardy (R-NV) both lost their reelections. Representatives Candice Miller (R-MI), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) sought other offices. Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Reid Ribble (R-WI) retired. And Corrine Brown (D-FL) lost in her primary earlier this year. House Appropriations Committee will see new leadership at the top, with Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) expected to replace the current and term-limited Chairman, Hal Rogers (R-KY). Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) is expected to stay for her third term in that role. Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz Balart and Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) were both victorious. One member of the subcommittee, David Jolly (R-FL), lost his reelection and will not return for the 115th Congress.