The wave that’s coming.
We in Washington send fierce good wishes to our friends and colleagues in the path of Hurricane Nicole. GR offices in Boca Raton, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Melbourne, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach are all closed today, and we hope that turns out to have been unnecessary. Stay safe and dry, y’all.
The wave that wasn’t.
By now you’ve undoubtedly seen innumerable reports and hot takes on the 2022 midterm elections, which many had expected would usher in a wave of new Republican legislators, especially in the US House of Representatives. The states of Florida and Texas got that red wave, but most of the rest of the country remains purple, with the occasional flash of bright blue or red. Iowa’s Congressional delegation is now completely Republican, for example, while competitive New Hampshire remains entirely Democratic.
We think the Republicans will win (or have won) control of the House of Representatives, but by the narrowest of margins. A majority in the House is 218 seats. Of the called races, Republicans currently hold 209, with 41 races remaining uncalled as of Thursday at noon. Of those 41, Bloomberg rates 12 as “leans R” and 29 as “leans D.” We’ve already lost Powerball this week, so we’re unwilling to gamble much.
The Senate is even more closely divided, at 48 seats called for Democrats and 49 called for Republicans. Votes are still being counted in Arizona and Nevada. Candidates in Georgia are headed to a December runoff. In all three states, Democrat incumbents — Senators Mark Kelly, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Raphael Warnock — are facing challenges from Republicans (Blake Masters, Adam Laxalt, and Herschel Walker, respectively).
Despite those lingering challenges, Tuesday’s elections were a reminder of the power of incumbency. Two House general elections pitted incumbents against each other:
- In Florida’s Second District, Rep. Neal Dunn (R-2nd) won a fourth term against Rep. Al Lawson (D), whose Fifth District was eliminated during the decennial redistricting process. Dunn, a physician, serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee. Lawson, a longtime Florida state legislator, served on the House Committees on Agriculture and Financial Services.
- In Texas’s 34th District, special-election winner Rep. Mayra Flores (R-34th) lost her bid for a full term in the House to third-term Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D), who had been redistricted out of the state’s 15th Congressional District.
Besides Reps. Lawson and Flores, however, only a handful of incumbents have lost their seats this week so far. (Those forty-four uncalled races include some incumbents, too.)
- Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), finishing her second term in the House, lost her reelection campaign to Iowa state senator Zach Nunn (R) in what had been considered a battleground race.
- Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), a 13-term Congressman, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation, and a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, lost his race to Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman (D).
- Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), the first Native American Republican woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, lost her race for a second term to first-generation American Gabriel Vasquez (D), who was a Las Cruces city councilor.
- Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a Navy veteran who gained national attention as a member of the January 6th committee, lost her campaign for a third term to fellow Navy veteran and Virginia state senator Jen Kiggans (R).
- Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), lost to New York State Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R), representing not only a party shift but a generational one. Lawler, born in 1986, is one of a growing number of millennials in Congress, while Maloney was among the relatively small group of Gen Xers.
- Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), a former homicide detective and Arizona state legislator who helped lead the Blue Dog Coalition, lost to former SEAL Team 3 member and “Shark Tank” contestant Eli Crane.
But what does it all mean?
Regardless of final vote counts, Democrats and Republicans on both the Senate and the House side need to elect leaders for the next Congress. Senate Republicans will meet to choose leaders next Wednesday, and House Republicans have said they plan to elect leaders next week as well. House Democrats are expected to meet on November 30, and a news report this morning said that meeting might last a few days.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Anderson Cooper on Monday that the violent attack on her husband—by a man who demanded to see her—would shape her decisions about whether to stay in office if the Democrats lose control of the House. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is Majority Leader and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) is Majority Whip, but if the Speaker does retire, younger members are poised to run for leadership. These include Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), the Assistant Speaker; Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chair of the House Democratic Caucus; and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already talked about what he hopes to accomplish as Speaker of the House, if Republicans take the majority. We expect Steve Scalise (R-LA) to run unopposed for Majority Leader, with a three-way race for Majority Whip among Reps. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Tom Emmer (R-MN), and Jim Banks (R-IN). Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is expected to remain chair of the Republican Conference; Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) chairs the Republican Policy Committee. Reps. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Darin LaHood (R-IL) are expected to vie for chairmanship of the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC).
Committee assignments will follow leadership decisions. Republicans have said they want to emphasize oversight in the next Congress, if they’re in charge of the policy agenda. It’s unclear how much shuffling among committees that might involve.
In the meantime, we’re watching for developments in these specific areas:
- Georgia. Georgia requires a majority of the votes to win a Senate seat, and by yesterday afternoon, it was clear that neither incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock (D) or his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, would reach that majority. With 98 percent of the vote counted, Warnock leads by 35,244 votes. The candidates will meet in a runoff on December 6. Warnock was originally elected to the Senate in the January 2021 runoff of a special election against incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler (R).
- Nevada. Votes are still being counted in Nevada, where Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) faces a strong challenge from former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). On Thursday morning, Laxalt held a 15,812-vote lead over Cortez Masto, with more than fifteen percent of the vote still to be counted.
- Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D) defeated his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, for the Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of Senator Pat Toomey (R).
- Senate Appropriations. The next Congress will begin with vacancies in both the chairmanship and the ranking position of the Senate Appropriations Committee, since Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are retiring. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is likely to be the top Democrat, with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) the top Republican.
- Senate Banking. Retiring Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee. We expect Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to succeed him as the panel’s top Republican.
- Senate Finance. While almost all the Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Finance will be back next year (we’re waiting on Senator Cortez Masto’s race), four Republican members are leaving: Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Rob Portman (R-OH).
- Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). The retirement of the Committee’s senior Republican, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), leaves a vacancy to be filled.
- House Committee on Appropriations. The panel is losing seven of its Democrats, including Rep. David Price (D-NC), the retiring chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. At least two Republican members will also need to be replaced. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the Committee’s senior Republican, is in line to succeed Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) as chair if the Republicans flip the House.
- House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Eight Democrats and five Republicans are leaving this Committee at the end of the year. Ranking member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will likely take over as chair in a Republican Congress.
- House Committee on Financial Services. Five Democrats, including Subcommittee Chair Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), won’t be back next year, and the Republican side will have five vacancies. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), currently the Committee’s ranking member, has said that a regulatory framework for digital assets would be a priority for him as chair, along with rigorous oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. The committee that might be expected to have most on its agenda next year will also have the greatest number of vacancies, losing at least eleven Democrats and three Republicans. Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is retiring; Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), the ranking Republican, is the likely chair in a Republican Congress. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) is running for the lead Democratic position, challenging Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
- House Committee on Ways & Means. The three retiring Democrats on this panel — Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)—all represent districts that will flip to Republican control in the next Congress. A potential fourth seat could be in play, as votes are still being counted in the race between Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and progressive Democrat David Kim. The Committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), is also leaving at the end of the year. With Congressman Brady retiring, this Committee will face one of the most spirited leadership races, as Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Jason Smith (R-MO) are all seeking the chair.
So what happens now?
Our elected representatives still need to finish the work of the 117th Congress. Both House and Senate are back next week for hearings and votes before leaving town again for the week of Thanksgiving. The House is scheduled to be back in session from November 29 through December 15. The Senate will be back then as well, and their holiday recess isn’t scheduled to start until December 22.
Between now and then, Congress needs to approve funding to keep the government running after the continuing resolution expires on December 16, hopefully in the form of a Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill. They also need to pass the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act, required by statute before December 31.
Join us for a face-to-face recap
Take half an hour on Monday afternoon, November 14, to join GrayRobinson Government Affairs and Lobbying team members Chris Dawson, Blair Hancock, and Joseph Salzverg for a virtual overview of the 2022 midterms. Register for the free webinar, and bring your questions!
The Week Ahead in Washington
November 14 at 4:00 p.m. GrayRobinson’s Government Affairs and Lobbying Team hosts a webinar on the 2022 midterm election results and how they’re likely to affect state and federal policymaking. Register for the link.
November 15 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs holds a hearing on with testimony from Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Michael S. Barr, National Credit Union Administration Chair Todd M. Harper, Acting Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chair Martin J. Gruenberg, and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu.
November 15 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry holds a two-panel hearing on The Honorable Xochitl Torres Small, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, will testify along with rural energy and telecom entrepreneurs and policy officials.
November 17 The Federal Housing Finance Agency holds a roundtable discussion in Chicago on Federal Home Loan Bank Support for community development and affordable housing activities, as part of its program. A livestream will be available to the public.