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Legislative / Policy Update

Congress will be in session for a short work week before taking next week off for Thanksgiving. There is very little on the legislative calendar as attention, instead, will be on the party leadership elections and new Member orientation. We may also find out this week who will chair the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would wait until after the elections to announce whether he would replace retiring Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Grassley has two years left under Republican term limits to return as Finance Chair. If Grassley gives up the Judiciary Committee gavel, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will head that panel. If Grassley stays at Judiciary, Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) would chair Finance and Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) would replace Crapo as head of the Banking Committee.

House Floor. The House this week plans to vote on 15 non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules and will also consider the Manage Our Wolves Act, removing the grey wolf from the Endangered Species Act.

Senate Floor. The Senate has scheduled a Nov. 13 cloture vote on the Coast Guard reauthorization, with passage expected on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the Senate will vote on limiting debate on the nomination of Michelle Bowman to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Leadership Elections. Now that the election results are in (for the most part), a number of members have either withdrawn from or joined House leadership races. On the Democratic side, Linda Sanchez will no longer be a candidate to fill Joe Crowley’s slot as Democratic Caucus Chair, but Hakeem Jeffries is now in the race and will contend against Barbara Lee. The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ben Ray Lujan, decided to enter the race for Assistant Democratic Leader, at which point Cheri Bustos dropped out of that race and instead will vie for the DCCC chairmanship against Sean Patrick Maloney, who entered the race Saturday, as well as Suzan DelBene and Denny Heck. Democrats will make their leadership choices on Nov. 28.

On the Republican side, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers has decided she will not run for re-election to her post, opening the door for Liz Cheney to take the chairmanship. Republican Whip Steve Scalise will not challenge Kevin McCarthy as Minority Leader, and McCarthy is expected to easily win the race against Jim Jordan. Republicans will hold their leadership elections on Nov. 14.

A complete list of candidates for party leadership posts in the House is included at the end of this newsletter. Senate leadership races will be held Nov. 14, and there have been no changes in the top positions since last week.

Trade. With House Democrats in the majority next year, supporters of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will pay special attention to some 30 to 40 Democrats and whether the labor provisions in the agreement will be enough to get them on board. Meanwhile, the International Trade Commission will begin public hearings Nov. 15 to inform its study on the economic impact of the USMCA. The study is due 105 days after the Trump Administration signs the deal, which is expected at the end of the month when the leaders of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and other Group of 20 countries convene at their summit in Buenos Aires. Unless an agreement can be reached in the coming days on Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico and Canada, it is anticipated that the USMCA will be signed by cabinet ministers rather than President Trump and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

At the summit, which runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, President Trump will have a separate meeting with Chinese President Xi in the hopes of striking a trade deal. In the event a deal is not reached, the White House is reportedly preparing a list of tariffs on an additional $250 billion-worth of Chinese goods that could be announced in early December and imposed after a 60-day comment period.

The U.S. has been imposing tariffs on Chinese goods in several tranches, the first of which was a 25% tariff imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods in July. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has calculated that U.S. companies have filed almost 10,000 requests for products to be excluded from that list of goods. Some 9,000 of those requests are still in the review process. The tariffs have been imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act based on a determination by USTR that China was restricting U.S. commerce because of its intellectual property and technology transfer practices. Inside U.S. Trade reports that USTR is also considering opening a Section 301 investigation against Chinese labor practices. Some observers believe this could be a political tradeoff to keep Democrats and labor on board for the USMCA vote.

Elections Update

Big Picture. The House currently stands at 227 elected Democrats vs. 198 Republicans. So far we have 82 new House members, 58 of whom won an open seat, plus an additional 24 new members who beat out incumbents. Nine of the 10 remaining undecided races have an incumbent involved. Of the 82 new members joining the House next year, 36 will be women. All 28 races that were ranked as Likely D or Lean D before the election were officially won by Democrats, and of those 18 were seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat.

The midterms saw several firsts in the House when it came to women being elected: The first time more than 100 women will be serving in the House (101 as of today, with six women involved in undecided races), the first two Native American and first two Muslim women were elected, the first two Hispanic women in Texas were elected, the youngest female to be elected in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 29 years young, and both Massachusetts and Connecticut will have their first female African American women representatives. (There’s also a first to be noted at the state level: The Nevada state legislature will have more women than men next year.)

The Senate will see at least seven new members in 2019. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and either Kyrsten Sinema or Martha McSally (Ariz.) will make the switch to the Senate from the House. Mitt Romney (Utah), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Mike Braun (Ind.), and potentially Rick Scott (Fla.) will be new to Capitol Hill. Josh Hawley will be the only Senator under 40, and both Tennessee and Arizona will have female Senators for the first time in their state’s history.

Arizona could actually end up with two female Senators. Following the death of Senator John McCain, the Arizona governor appointed former Senator Jon Kyl to the vacant seat. Kyl, however, said he would only serve until the start of the new Congress in January 2019. If Kyl does, indeed, leave the Senate, there is speculation that the governor could appoint McSally to fill the seat if she fails in her Senate bid against Sinema. The appointment would be for two years, until 2020, when there would be a special election to fill the seat for the remaining two years of McCain’s term.

Quick Hits.

  • Turnout for 2018 midterm election: Highest since 1966 at 49%
  • Estimated total votes counted (so far): 115,867,500

Factoid #1. Women drove this election. According to exit poll data, women voted for Democrats at a rate of 59% versus 40% for Republicans. This +19 point swing is the highest it’s been in recorded history (started in 1992) and double the ratio it was in 2016.

Factoid #2. Seats that leaned Republican but weren’t in rural areas provided big pickup opportunities for Democrats this year. Eighty-five percent of Democrats’ gains (28 seats) came from predominantly suburban districts. As for districts labeled as purely rural, Democrats lost one (MN-8) and gained one (NY-19).


House Democrats (Election Nov. 28)


Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)

Majority Leader

Steny Hoyer (Md.)

Majority Whip

James Clyburn (S.C.)

Diana DeGette (Colo.)

Assistant Democratic Leader

David Cicilline (R.I.)

Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.)

Democratic Caucus Chair

Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.)

Barbara Lee (Calif.)

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair

Peter Aguilar (Calif.)

Katherine Clark (Mass.)

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair

Cheri Bustos (Ill.)

Suzan DelBene (Wash.)

Denny Heck (Wash.)

Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.)

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Co-Chairs (Three positions)

Matt Cartwright (Pa.)

Debbie Dingell (Mich.)

Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.)

John Garamendi (Calif.)

Ted Lieu (Calif.)

House Republicans (Election Nov. 14)

Minority Leader

Kevin McCarthy (Calif.)

Jim Jordan (Ohio)

Minority Whip

Steve Scalise (La.)

Republican Conference Chair

Liz Cheney (Wyo.)

Republican Conference Vice Chair

Mark Walker (N.C.)

Republican Conference Secretary

Jason Smith (Mo.)

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair

Tom Emmer (Minn.)

Republican Policy Committee Chair

Gary Palmer (Ala.)

David Schweikert (Ariz.)

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