This article originally ran in the December 4 edition of FEDManager.com.
Last month, Americans went to the polls to cast their ballots in the midterm elections. As a non-partisan organization, the Federal Managers Association watched the election results closely, supporting both Democrats and Republicans with a track record of working to enhance the federal workforce. Much has already been said in the immediate days following the elections, but we wanted to provide a brief glimpse from FMA’s perspective.
The 115th Congress saw single-party control of the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House. The biggest takeaway from November’s election is the federal government now goes from a united government under Republican control to a divided government with each party controlling a chamber in Congress along with a Republican President.
Democrats flipped 40 net seats previously controlled by Republicans, and will control the House of Representatives in the 116th Congress. The elections will have much significance with regard to the internal machinations and business of Congress. At the top of the list is a new Speaker of the House. As last Wednesday’s preliminary vote showed, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has the inside track to regain the speaker’s gavel. She faces continued opposition from within her party, but FMA expects her to secure the speakership when the new House convenes in January. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi would preside over that chamber, including setting the agenda and control over what legislation is considered on the floor. The Speaker is also second in line to succeed the President, after the Vice President.
Further, the new majority in the House affects the leadership and makeup of all House committees. Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is in line to assume the gavel as chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the primary committee of jurisdiction for federal employee issues in the House. The Republican Steering Committee elected Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) as the new ranking member. In addition, because of the party gains in the election, Democrats are poised to gain more seats and staff on each committee while Republicans, now in the minority, will lose seats.
The Republican Party will maintain control of the U.S. Senate, where the party expanded its majority. Republicans won Senate races in Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, and Florida, all held by Democrats in the 115th Congress. Democrats flipped two Senate seats on Election Day in Nevada and Arizona.
Although there was no transfer of leadership in the Senate, committee business on the primary committee handling federal employee issues will be significantly different than in recent years. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) will continue to be chaired by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). Uncertainty lies with the Democratic minority of the committee, with the full committee ranking member, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Subcommittee ranking member Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) both losing their elections. It is unclear who will be the new ranking members of the full committee and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. Also because of the losses, Democrats face the possibility of losing a seat on HSGAC which could shift the dynamics on a committee that prides itself on working well in a bipartisan fashion.
FMA recognizes both the challenges and opportunities that exist under a divided Congress. FMA urges the 116th Congress to seek out compromises on important legislation, as opposed to engaging in partisan gridlock. It will ultimately be up to President Trump and the leadership of the House and Senate to be able to work together in order for clear and deliberative lawmaking to take place. In the new Congress we see opportunities for progress, including protection of due process and pay and benefits for federal employees. We remain hopeful the new Congress will do a better job celebrating federal employees for their hard work in their congressionally-mandated missions, rather than labeling them a target for wasteful spending.
For our part, FMA looks forward to continuing work with the administration and with legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft and pass policies that promote federal workforce management and invest in the workforce.