While the dust has not quite settled on the 2018 midterm election, the early top line narrative for both political parties is that the night was a mixed bag.
Democrats claimed control of the House of Representatives, an outcome that many political operatives had expected, but obviously wasn’t a given in this year’s supercharged political environment, and the spotty record over the last few cycles of electoral polling. In the Senate, the upper chamber remains under Republican control.
So what does all of this mean? The biggest impact by far will be in the House, where all of the committee chairmanships will be assumed by Democrats at the beginning of the 116th Congress in 2019. In several cases, the new leaders are members we know well and have worked with in the past, including Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) who will chair the House Agriculture Committee and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) who will lead the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Both Mr. Peterson and Mr. DeFazio are supportive of many Hardwood Federation priority issues, and we will continue to work closely with them and their staff to ensure continued cooperation.
Some other chairmen do not have a strong record of supporting Hardwood Federation issues, including those that will be calling the shots at the Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, and Ways and Means. We will need to double down on our efforts to educate and persuade these members, particularly in the areas of biomass energy and combustion, federal forest management reform, and reform of the Endangered Species Act.
In the Senate, committee leadership will largely remain the same with the exception of the Senate Finance and Senate Foreign Relations Committees. Both chairmen – Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Bob Corker (R-TN) are retiring. At press time, the final decisions on who will fill these seats had not been made, but there will certainly be new leadership in place on these key committees, and others could be moved around as well.
The 2019 legislative calendar is tough to predict. With a split House and Senate, many are predicting a return to the gridlock that has gripped D.C. in the past. However, optimists are looking for transportation and infrastructure to be one possible area that can be worked on in a bi-partisan manner.
There are also predictions that a number of administration officials will depart at the end of 2018 or early 2019…this could keep the Senate busy with confirmation hearings, particularly early in the year. And both the House and the Senate could consider action to address international trade.
Your Hardwood Federation team is gearing up for 2019. We will be reaching out to all of these of new members to make sure that they know the value our sector brings to communities around the country and the economy as a whole. While we may have lost some key allies in our efforts on behalf of the industry, there are many talented people on both sides of the aisle that we are looking forward to working with as part of the 116th Congress.
Dana Lee Cole is Executive Director at the Hardwood Federation, a Washington D.C.-based hardwood industry trade association that represents thousands of hardwood businesses in every state in the U.S. and acts as the industry’s advocacy voice on Capitol Hill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.