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New Year, New House

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Wednesday, 30 January 2019 19:42

By: Arthur M. Freyre

The 116th Congress is already in session. Most news reports focused on three things: the Democratic “blue wave” in the House of Representative; the increase of female representatives; and the ethnic diversity of the incoming freshmen class.

The Brookings Institute published a report looking at other characteristics in December 2018, and noted the following similarities among the incoming Congressmen:

  • They are highly educated;
  • Least politically experienced; and
  • The overall loss of institutional memory. 

The second characteristic regarding political experience is one that stands out. The incoming freshmen class’ lack of political experience coupled with the Senate’s familiarity and pragmatism on the other side gives us an indication of what we can expect from Congress this year; legislative gridlock. 

Brookings defined political experience by whether or not the incoming freshmen served in local government, such as a mayor or city councilman, or in the state legislature, as a state representative or state senator. The report showed that only 41% had political experience, with 32% having served as a state elected official, and 15% serving on the local level (i.e. city or county). Contrast this with the fact that many new Senate freshmen members served in state wide positions such as governor or state attorney general.  

NewYearNewHouse Chart

To provide some comparison, consider the 104th Congress and the 112th Congress. For historical perspective, the 104th Congress was when the GOP gained majorities in the House and the Senate in the 1994 election. This was significant because the GOP had been the majority party in the House since 1954, and the Senate since 1980. The 112th Congress is unique because then speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats lost their majority after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. In both cases, the incoming freshmen class had over 50% with previous political experience. 

This lack of local and/or state political experience from the House side may be problematic. Under this new Congress, we may see more ideological legislation to come out of the House. When the Senate passes its version of the legislation, there may be problems due to the difference in perspective between the two legislative bodies, resulting in anticipated gridlock. 

Any legislation that falls under gridlock may get resolved in 2021 at the earliest, when there is either a new Administration that is inaugurated and/or new leadership in the Congress that would change the party in control over the House or Senate. However, there are some issues that currently seem to have bipartisan support such as those in the technology sector, which may see more movement this session. Tech issues like data privacy have a greater chance of passage partly because technology issues impacts our lives on both a personal and commercial level, which garners support from across both sides of the aisle. 

Despite the expectation of gridlock, that does not mean that your issue has to fall under this result. By utilizing a firm that understands the political climate and can advise you as your issue is navigated through the legislative process you can keep your issue from becoming stagnant. To learn more please visit these links on our website and do not hesitate to contact us.  

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